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B.C. launches farm assessment consultations

Two months of public consultations on the assessment of farm properties in British Columbia start next week in the community where the topic first became a sore spot among rural property owners.

The provincial Farm Assessment Review Panel starts its provincewide run of meetings in Saanich on Sept. 16 at the Poplar Room at the fairgrounds (1528 Stelly’s Cross Road), where doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Out of 12 scheduled consultations, only three, in Saanich, Quesnel and Richmond, currently have a confirmed location and time. The schedule of public meetings and registration information are available on the panel’s web site.

“The consultation by the Farm Assessment Review Panel will provide a valuable and necessary public dialogue to assist government in delivering on its commitment to ensuring the farm property assessment process is fair, equitable, and straightforward and accommodates the regional diversity of our agricultural community, ” said Kevin Krueger, the provincial minister responsible for BC Assessment, in a release Tuesday.

The panel was formally launched in February, amid controversy that began in Saanich over a reassessment of farm properties, many of which were reclassified as partly residential — thus opening them up to be taxed at a higher rate than strictly “farm” property.

The panel’s role is to hold a “provincewide, comprehensive review of farm assessment regulations in order to streamline rules and procedures, while ensuring their fairness and transparency.”

The panel in June made a few interim recommendations, including suspension of any further large-scale farm classification projects by BC Assessment until the panel’s report is received and decisions are made.

The panel’s final report and recommendations to the province on what constitutes a “farm” for municipal tax purposes are due at the end of July 2009, for consideration in the 2010 assessment roll.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and Okanagan-Westside MLA Rick Thorpe are the co-chairs of the review panel.

“I am anticipating a high level of interest in these meetings and look forward to receiving fresh and innovative ways to enhance the farm property assessment process,” Leonard said in the province’s release Tuesday.

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