Provincial government moving to restrict the size of mega-mansions on ALR land

Click to play video: 'B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR' B.C. NDP government limits size of monster homes on ALR
WATCH: B.C.'s NDP government has announced a couple of major moves including restricting the size of mansions and monster homes on the Agricultural Land Reserve. Richard Zussman reports – Nov 5, 2018

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.”

READ MORE: Richmond mega-mansion on designated farmland was illegally operating as high-end hotel

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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.

WATCH HERE: Richmond ALR mega-mansion listed as guesthouse on travel websites

Click to play video: 'Richmond ALR mega mansion listed as guesthouse on travel websites' Richmond ALR mega mansion listed as guesthouse on travel websites
Richmond ALR mega mansion listed as guesthouse on travel websites – Mar 7, 2018

“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.”

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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.”

READ MORE: Richmond defers decision on farmland mansions after hearing from over 30 speakers

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.

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“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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