Extra funds, orders help B.C. ALC clear backlog

B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, shown here last month in Kelowna, ordered new performance measures last year for the province’s Agricultural Land Commission. (Government of British Columbia photo)

British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Commission credits new funding, and a new regime of performance measures, with helping it to clear its backlog of applications.

The ALC, the tribunal overseeing provincial measures to conserve farmland and enable farming-related land use, recently announced it has “eliminated” a backlog of 185 applications — and has processed over 90 per cent of the applications it’s received since April 1 within 90 days of receiving them.

The ALC said the quicker turnaround time follows the province’s announcement of a funding boost in March, bringing its annual budget to $4.5 million, up from its $2.5 million base budget in 2012.

The new performance measures, the ALC said, include a money-back guarantee, effective April 1, which would grant applicants a full refund if they don’t see decisions made on complete applications within 90 business days.

Between April 1 and Dec. 31, the ALC said, it received 154 applications and processed 144 of them within the 90-day timeframe.

The new performance measures, ordered by Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick in March last year, remain in effect until the end of next month.

The ALC said it has also made “progress” on other measures, such as acknowledging an application is complete, or identifying what additional information is needed, within five business days of receiving the application, 92 per cent of the time.

The commission said it has also made decisions within 60 business days of receiving complete applications, about 80 per cent of the time.

Letnick’s order last March also called for the ALC, by the end of 2016, to come up with a method of calculating “cost of service” for application intake and review, site visits, requests for more information, decisions and notifications, to be used as a “baseline” for a future project to gauge success of the measures taken so far.

It also called for the commission to run a survey of local governments with land in the province’s agricultural land reserve (ALR), to identify “challenges and opportunities.”

Letnick, a Kelowna-area MLA, further called for the ALC to have a “compliance and enforcement” system up and running by Nov. 30 last year.

The ALC, set up in 1973, said it has considered over 45,000 land use applications to remove land from the ALR, subdivide land within the ALR, use agricultural land for non-farm purposes and/or to include land into the ALR.

The ALC said it today reviews 500 to 700 new applications each year and noted the interest in its decisions has “heightened over the years,” due to greater public awareness of issues such as food security, urban sprawl and climate change. — AGCanada.com Network

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