The practice of allowing the construction of massive mansions on British Columbia’s agricultural land reserve (ALR) has officially been banned.
On Saturday, the provincial government announced that new legislation restricting so-called ‘mega mansions’ on farmland is now fully in effect, with an aim to better preserve BC’s fertile soils for farming and ranching uses.
Bill 52 was introduced last November, and it restricts new homes on ALR to a total floor area of less than 5,400 sq. ft. However, special consideration for larger homes will be provided if there is direct proof a larger home would support a farming business.
“I’m very happy to see this law come into full force and effect. This new law will encourage farming and better protect farmland by banning mega-mansions, stopping the illegal dumping of waste on farmland and reinstating the one-zone system,” said BC Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham in a statement.
“It’s a great step in our effort to revitalize the Agricultural Land Reserve so that British Columbians can count on a safe, secure supply of locally grown food on their tables for years to come.”
Applicants who had all of their Agricultural Land Commission permits and authorizations in place before the weekend, when the new regulations became law, will be grandfathered under the old system, but they must begin substantial construction no later than November 5 of this year.
Other changes that are now in effect include the restriction of the removal of farmland soil and increased penalties for the dumping of construction debris and other harmful fill in the ALR.
Additionally, the ALR has been reunified as a single zone to ensure consistent rules with strong protections for all provincial ALR land. This means all ALR policies generated by municipal governments are effectively overridden.
The new policies were put in place in response to growing public calls for government action over the rising number of large ALR properties being converted into super-large luxury residential homes, especially in the Lower Mainland’s South of Fraser communities such as Richmond, Surrey, and Chilliwack.
For instance, one well-known mansion constructed in 2014 in Surrey’s Cloverdale area has 11,000 sq. ft. of floor area on a 76-acre lot.
Such mansions on ALR pay significantly lower property taxes due to the technical farm status of the lots.
According to the provincial government, 47,000 sq. kms. or 5% of BC’s total land base is preserved for agricultural uses. This is equivalent to an area over 17 times the size of Metro Vancouver, including the North Shore watersheds.
In recent years, based on provincial data, one hectare (2.47 acres) has an average crop yield of about 31,000 kgs for potatoes, 15,000 kgs of spinach, 18,000 kgs of cranberries, or 6,000 kgs of strawberries.