Farmland mega-mansions targeted in B.C. legislation
The provincial government has introduced legislation meant to crackdown on misuses of farmland, including for mega-mansions and dumping grounds.
Bill 52, an amendment to B.C.'s Agricultural Land Commission Act, was introduced Monday in what the NDP referred to as an effort to ensure farmland is for farming.
If approved, it would limit the size of homes permitted on the province's Agricultural Land Reserve to about 5,400 square feet. Exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis if builders are able to prove a massive home would support farming.
"We do know that there has been a substantial amount that have been built in the last five years – just in the last five years there's been a more than 13 per cent increase in these homes," Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said.
Homes that have already been built or that are well under construction will be grandfathered in.
The move meant to address speculation in the ALR would also require approval from the Agricultural Land Commission before building any additional residences. The ALC is an independent tribunal with a mandate of protecting and preserving B.C.'s farmland.
A statement from the Ministry of Agriculture said the amendment also suggests "restoring the integrity of the ALR" by re-instating a one-zone system for all designated land in B.C., so that all property falls under the same protections.
A 2014 amendment set up the existing two-zone system, which meant some land can be used for activities other than farming. Land in Zone 2 – parts of B.C. excluding the South Coast, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan – is not monitored as closely.
The new legislation also suggests a crackdown on the dumping of construction debris and toxic waste on ALR, which can "irreparably damage arable soil on valuable farmland." If approved, the province would increase fines for those caught illegally dumping on farmland.
"The legislative changes will help stop damaging practices that contaminate farmland and make farms unaffordable for new farmers, and threaten the short-term and long-term viability of the ALR," the ministry statement said.
B.C.'s ALR was established 45 years ago as a way to protect land with prime agricultural conditions. Currently, about 4.6 million hectares of land (less than five per cent of the province's total land) is protected by the act.
In a statement issued Monday, the province said about half of the food British Columbians consume is produced within B.C.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan