B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham has announced “a ban on mega-mansions” on the province’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
If passed, the new legislation will limit new house sizes to about 5,400 square feet. The change will have the biggest impact in Richmond where last spring the city reduced the maximum size of a house on agricultural land to 10,700 square feet.
“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,” said 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.”
Homebuilders will be able to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for a larger home in cases where it would support farming. Currently municipalities are allowed to set their own by-laws on how large a home can be on agricultural land.
The legislation will also allow for increased penalties as part of a crackdown on the dumping of construction debris, toxic waste and other fill in the ALR that can irreparably damage arable soil on farmland. The province is also moving towards reinstating one zone for all ALR land in B.C.
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“Agriculture drives prosperity in communities throughout B.C., and we are fortunate that 45 years ago the province had the foresight to protect B.C.’s best and most capable agricultural land,” said Popham. “In an era where food security is a growing global issue, our legislative changes intend to protect ALR land for its highest and best use – agricultural production.”
The ALR includes over 4.7-million hectares of B.C. land that are preserved for agricultural use and it makes up less than 5per cent of B.C.’s total land base. Based on the Food Self-Reliance report, B.C. farmers produce 48 per cent of the food British Columbians consume.
The government says the ability for landowners to build mega-mansions was making “farms unaffordable for new farmers” and threatening the short-term and long-term viability of the ALR.
“BC Agriculture Council is pleased that the ministry continues working with us to ensure farmland is available for farmers to farm and believes the proposed changes will continue to strengthen the Agricultural Land Reserve,” said B.C. Agriculture Council president Stan Vander Waal.
“We are happy to see the return to one zone and trust that future administrative changes to the Agricultural Land Commission will continue to be reviewed with BC Agriculture Council, which understands the unique needs of farmers and ranchers in B.C.”
The issue of mega-homes on farmland has been controversial. Some have said the massive homes allow for multi generational families to live on the land and work on the farm. Others have argued the homes have destroyed valuable land and made it impossible for young farmers to get into the farming industry.
“Mega-homes and lifestyle estates preclude land from being used by agriculture ever again,” ALC chair Jennifer Dyson said. “These large-scale residences for non-farmers impede agriculture, drive speculation and further erode the land base. A farmer will not be able to afford to purchase these properties with the value of just the home in the millions.”
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