British Columbia

New Agricultural Land Reserve regulations take effect

Legislation introduced in November is now in effect and includes the banning of mega- mansions and increased penalties for illegal dumping on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Legislation bans mega-mansions and penalizes illegal dumping

Homes like this one — upwards of 20,000 square feet in size and built on several acres of farmland — are scattered across Richmond. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

New legislation concerning British Columbia's Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) has officially kicked in.

The provincial government introduced Bill 52 on Nov. 5, 2018 and the changes officially took effect on Feb. 22. According to the government, the regulations will enhance food security and encourage farming on ALR land.

A key change includes reducing the size of homes built on ALR land. Primary residences are now restricted to less than 500 square metres — or roughly 5,400 square feet  — under the new law. 

In Richmond, homes have been built on ALR land that exceed 20,000 square feet. In one case, the city rejected a bid to build a 40,000-square-foot-home - big enough for 21 bedrooms.

Banning mega-mansions on ALR has been a source of contention for Lower Mainland residents, with some farming families in B.C. saying limiting the size of homes on agricultural land will impact their quality of life.

Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham said in a statement the province will support larger families who need extra living space if it is to support their farming operations. Those families can work with the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC),  the administrative body that oversees the ALR.

"Multigenerational farming families are the backbone of agriculture throughout B.C.," said Popham.

People who had permits in place to build a larger home before Feb. 22 can still go ahead as long as construction begins by Nov. 5, 2019.

No more dumping

Bill 52 also increases penalties for illegal dumping and for removing fill and soil from the ALR.

In May, 2018, the ALC investigated 93 properties on protected farmland in Metro Vancouver where it believed illegal dumping was taking place.

According to Popham, it is primarily construction waste and the problem is not isolated to the Lower Mainland, but is happening in Kelowna, on southern Vancouver Island and anywhere else construction is booming.

Anyone caught taking fill and soil will now face a maximum penalty of $1 million or six months in prison.

The ALR was established in 1973 to protect land with prime agricultural conditions for farming and ranching. It currently protects approximately 4.7 million hectares of arable land in B.C.