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B.C. names farm assessment review panel

With a panel in place, public consultations on what defines a farm for municipal tax purposes in British Columbia are expected to start early this summer, the province announced Friday.

Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe on Friday named the remaining members of the farm assessment review panel, which is expected to file its report and recommendations by the end of July 2009, in time to consider for the province’s 2010 assessment roll.

The panel will also have “flexibility” to offer interim recommendations to the province, the government said.

Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard and Peace River-area MLA Blair Lekstrom were previously announced as co-chairs of the panel. It was planned in December after controversy in Saanich over a reassessment of farm properties that reclassified many as partly residential — thus taxing them at a higher rate than strictly “farm” property.

Panel members named Friday include Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Peace River District regional director Karen Goodings, B.C. Assessment Board member Shawn McLaughlin, Abbotsford turkey farmer Garnet Etsell, Princeton cattle rancher Ernie Willis,
former B.C. Assessment appraiser Keith Skidmore, Smithers area dairyman Gary van der Meulen, Quesnel agritourism farm operator Heloise Dixon-Warren and Saanich dairy farmer Sarah Pendray.

A panel member representing the Kootenays will be named “no later than March 15,” the province noted.

The panel was originally to be named and terms of reference outlined in January, but was delayed “due to the volume of interest in the review and to ensure the review fully addresses the needs of the farming community,” the province said previously.

A web site and toll free phone number will be launched ahead of the consultations, to take public input, the province said.

The panel’s objective, according to the terms of reference released Friday, is “to review the farm classification process and regulations with a focus on simplifying and
streamlining the regulations, while at the same time ensuring the property assessment
system is fair, equitable, enhances competitiveness and supports innovation and the
British Columbia Agriculture Plan and a healthy future for British Columbia families and
communities.”

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