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Mega-mansions not welcome on B.C. farmland: province

Government announces legislation aimed at driving land speculators and developers away
richmond farmwatch
Farmland in Richmond, B.C.: 26 acres for $8.3 million (based on zoning to allow residential building). | Richmond Farmwatch

Farmland across B.C. is set to be protected from real estate development and land speculation under a new legislative bill introduced November 5.

In a busy day for anti-speculation policy announcements (a condo-flipping registry was also launched), the B.C. government said that its new legislation “makes it clear that land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) is for farming and ranching in British Columbia, not for dumping construction waste or building mega-mansions.”

Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, took aim at the former B.C. Liberal government in the ministry’s media announcement.

“The old government let wealthy speculators drive the price of farmland out of reach for young farmers and allowed some of our most valuable agricultural land to be damaged,” stated Popham. “We are protecting farmland in B.C. to ensure land is available now and for future generations of farmers, so people in British Columbia have a safe, secure supply of locally grown food on their tables for years to come.”

The ministry said that the proposed legislation makes three key changes:

• Restoring the integrity of the ALR by reinstating one zone for all ALR land in B.C., making it clear that all land in the ALR benefits from the same strong protections.

• Addressing mega-mansions and speculation in the ALR by limiting new house sizes to less than 500 square metres [about 5,400 square feet], except through application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) in cases where it would support farming; and requiring an ALC approval of any additional residences in the ALR to curb non-farm development.  

• Cracking down on the dumping of construction debris, toxic waste and other fill in the ALR that can irreparably damage arable soil on valuable farmland, through increased penalties.

Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North, said, “I am thrilled that the government is acting decisively to stem speculation on farmland. The ALR is vital to our local food security and for realizing B.C.'s economic opportunities in the agricultural sector. I look forward to working further with government to find more ways to support B.C. farmers and protect our agricultural land.”

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