Farm fund still needs work

Staff have suggested 10 per cent of the increased tax dollars the district will earn after farmland is developed should go into an agricultural reserve fund.

Staff have suggested 10 per cent of the increased tax dollars the district will earn after farmland is developed should go into an agricultural reserve fund.

An idea to wring some tax dollars for agriculture from land that has been lost to that use is going to take more work by Maple Ridge municipal staff.

While staff suggested 10 per cent of the increased tax dollars the district will earn after farmland is developed should go into an agricultural reserve fund, it also wants to see if there’s a way of grabbing some of the profit from people who are able to rezone their land from farm to urban use.

A report says that the 10-per-cent diversion should only apply to properties that have been converted from farmland to non-residential use and points out that current levels of taxation don’t pay for the services required by suburban use – so diverting 10 per cent of the revenues would aggravate that.

On Monday, council approved a resolution asking staff if it could find a way to charge a levy when property was rezoned from rural to urban, and will reconsider creating an agricultural support fund and diverting a portion of new property tax revenues when it next does its business planning.

“It’s not without its challenges, that’s for sure,” Mayor Ernie Daykin said later.

A conversion tax was also studied. That involves slapping an extra levy on to a property owner who benefits when their land is switched from farming to urban use.

But while that’s used in some places in the U.S. there’s no precedence for such a levy in Canada while the Local Government Act doesn’t seem to support the idea either.

One option could be to levy an “amenity charge” that could be used to support farming activities in Maple Ridge.

While there have been few conversions of farmland in the last few years, a levy could be useful when the Albion flats is redeveloped and possibly more than a 100 acres change from farm to urban use.

However, Coun. Craig Speirs said putting that 10 per cent into an agricultural fund would divert money from general revenues. Instead, an extra 10 per cent should be charged.