Soil Management in the Agricultural Land Reserve
The City of Richmond's continued commitment to protect lands within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for future agricultural viability supports Council's Strategic Plan 2018-2022 Strategy #2 - A Sustainable and Environmentally Conscious City:
"Environmentally conscious decision-making that demonstrates leadership in implementing innovative, sustainable practices and supports the City's unique biodiversity and island ecology.
2.3. Increase emphasis on local food systems, urban agriculture and organic farming."
Soil is an important natural resource in Richmond. Approximately 4,993 hectares (12,338 acres) of the City's land base - equal to 39% - is located within the ALR. This percentage of farmland requires the City to carefully manage growth, while protecting some of the most productive agricultural lands within British Columbia.
Roles in Regulating Land in the ALR
City of Richmond
Richmond City Council enacted Soil Removal and Fill Deposit Regulation Bylaw No. 8094 (the "Bylaw") to regulate soil removal and fill deposition for properties within the ALR.
The Bylaw is based on provincial legislation that allows local government to regulate the deposit and removal of soil. Such regulation includes enforcement measures based on the Bylaw and unless otherwise exempted as per legislation, allows local government to have shared oversight for vetting and approving applications and issuing permits related to soil deposition and removal.
The City's application process is overseen by the Community Bylaw Department. The Bylaw Department is also tasked with responding to public complaints and proactively monitoring lands within the ALR. The mandate of the department is to ensure regulatory compliance through education, mediation, progressive enforcement and prosecution.
Agricultural Land Commission
The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is responsible for regulating activity on agricultural lands throughout BC. The ALC derives its authority from the following:
Joint Jurisdiction of the City and ALC
No person is allowed to deposit or remove soil on any properties located within the ALR except in accordance with the Bylaw, the ALC Act and ALR Regulation.
Soil is defined as topsoil, sand, gravel, rock, silt, clay, peat or any other substance of which land is composed, or any combination thereof. As per the ALC, construction or demolition waste, masonry rubble, concrete, cement, rebar, drywall, wood waste, asphalt, glass, synthetic polymers, treated wood, and unchipped lumber is not permitted to be used on ALR lands.
Consequently, a property owner (or an owner's designated agent) must first obtain a permit from the City when the proposed activity does not qualify for an exemption as per the Bylaw or provincial legislation. In addition, a permit may be required when the activity is associated with construction of a single family residence or other structure and the proposed soil removal from a property and/or deposit onto a property exceeds 0.1 hectares in total area.
Despite any exemption provided under the Bylaw or any other City bylaw, property owners are typically required to obtain an approval from the ALC prior to importing or removing soil. This would include importing soil to raise a property and create a farm access road. Such an approval may first require an approval from Council.
Obtaining approval from the ALC requires submission of a Notice-of-Intent or submission of a Soil Use for the Placement of Fill application to the ALC. Council approval is required prior to the ALC reviewing a Soil Use for the Placement of Fill application. It is recommended that any soil deposit and/or removal application satisfies the ALC’s Criteria for Technical Reports Submitted by Consultants prior to submission.
In addition, the property owner or agent is required to register for a BCeID and complete an online application through the ALC's Application Portal. Additional fees payable to the ALC may apply.
City of Richmond Soil Deposit and Removal Application
Soil Deposit and Removal Application Submission Process
The first step in the application process is to submit a completed Schedule 'C' Soil Removal / Fill Deposit application. The completed application form must be accompanied with a Certificate of Title and a non-refundable application fee ($600). A Corporate Registry must be provided if the registered owner identifies as a company.
Property owners appointing a representative to act on their behalf must also complete and sign a Letter of Authorization (if such information is not provided on their application). A Building Site Plan may be required when the proposed soil deposition is associated with residential construction on a property within the ALR.
For a more detailed outline of the City's application process and requirements, please refer to the City's Soil Deposit & Removal Application Checklist.
Application Review Process
Following receipt of all required documents and the City application fee, City staff will review the application to determine if any additional information is required. Following the review and where required by provincial legislation, the Bylaw, and/or City policy, an application may be subject to successive review and/or decision by the following:
Agricultural and Environmental Considerations
Please refer to the documents and web pages linked below as other City strategies, policies or bylaws may apply to your application:
- Riparian Management Areas - Bulletin Info 23
- Riparian Management Areas (Single Family Residential) - Info 44
- Sustainability & Environment Overview
- Watercourse Protection and Crossing Bylaw No. 8441
- Environmentally Sensitive Areas Management Strategy
- Invasive Species Action Plan
- Extent of Fill Disturbance on Lands in the ALR (Single Family Dwellings) - Bulletin Building 26
- Size Limitations & Farm Home Plate Requirements for Residential Developments in an AG1 Zone - Bulletin Building 28
- Tree Protection Bulletin
- Agricultural Viability Strategy
- Farming First Strategy
Soil Inquiries & Complaints
To inquire about the Bylaw, the soil deposit and removal application process or to report unauthorized soil deposition and removal on properties within the ALR, please contact the Community Bylaw Department at 604-276-4345 or by email at email@example.com.