4 goats don’t make a farm: board upholds $1.4 million residential assessment of agricultural land in Surrey

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      Because there weren’t enough goats, a Property Assessment Appeal Board confirmed the residential classification of a Surrey property that forms part of the B.C. agricultural land reserve.

      This means that the 2021 assessment of $1,407,000 stands with respect to the 5.09-acre lot at 16684 52 Avenue.

      Property owners Sukhwinder S. Sodhi and Jasvir K. Sodhi have argued that the land should be classified as a farm.

      This classification would have resulted in a lower assessment and thereby, less taxes to pay.

      However, the assessor for Surrey and White Rock proved that the property does not qualify as a farm.

      As PAAB panel chair Howard Kushner related in a decision and order, the Sodhis stated that there were a total of four goats on the land.

      In addition, the assessor noted a chicken coop with about 10 chickens in the area where the appellants have two RV trailers that they were renting out to tenants.

      Moreover, the assessor calculated a total area of 1.4 acres that could qualify for agricultural uses as most of the property was not prepared for farming.

      As panel chair Kushner explained, a property must meet certain annual income requirements set by law and regulation.

      “The income requirements are $2,500 if the total area of farm operation is between 1.98 acres and 10 acres, or $10,000 if the total area of the farm operation is less than 1.98 acres,” Kushner noted.

      Also, farm class is granted on an annual basis.

      In connection with goats, the assessor cited a B.C. Assessment standard of "one acre of land to support six to eight goats”.

      “Four goats are not a sufficient number of goats to justify the minimum use of 1.98 acres of land necessary to meet the lower income threshold of $2,500,” Kushner recalled the assessor’s presentation.

      Kushner added that even if the 10 chickens were included, the assessor believed that egg sales would “only amount to about $1,083 which combined with four goats would still be insufficient to meet the $10,000 income requirement for a farm of less than 1.98 acres”.

      The Sodhis, for their part, claimed that “all the goats were sold (but did not provide the amount of income received) and that there are 27 or 28 chickens”.

      The appellants also argued that the whole 5.09-acre property is being used for farming, and therefore the lower income requirement of $2,500 should apply.

      “Alternatively, the Appellants advise that they are in receipt of rental income of $500 per month for each trailer and thus meet the $10,000 income requirement,” Kushner related.

      However, Kushner noted that the Sodhis have “not demonstrated that their Property has met the requirements of the Farm Regulation”.

      “Based upon the evidence before the Panel, specifically the pictures taken by the Assessor on their inspection of the Property, the only area that was being used for qualifying agricultural use was the fenced area (being used for the raising of goats and chickens) and the area where the RV trailers were situated,” Kushner wrote, referring to an area of around 1.4 acres.

      Because of this, the income requirement of $10,000 per year was not met.

      “The existence of four goats and a number of chickens would not meet that requirement,” Kushner stated.

      The panel chair also noted that rental income from the two RV trailers does not qualify for inclusion in determining annual gross income.