American fined for buying P.E.I. land
An American who broke P.E.I.'s non-resident land ownership rules has been fined close to $29,000, with a further fine expected.
This is only the second time the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission — which administers a number of laws for the province, including the Lands Protection Act — has held hearings on an individual's property ownership.
The case dates back to 2003, when Melvin Griffin of Florida was visiting the Island and a 76-hectare piece of land in Pleasant Grove, north of Charlottetown, caught his eye. It had almost two kilometres of shore frontage along the Winter River.
P.E.I. has strict laws regarding non-resident land ownership under the Lands Protection Act. Anything more than two hectares needs to be approved by cabinet, and in this case cabinet said no.
But Griffin went ahead anyway. According to an agreed statement of facts entered during Thursday's IRAC hearing, Griffin's realtor advised him to find a P.E.I. resident to act as his agent and buy the property, at least on paper. Griffin found an Island man and loaned him the money to buy the property. Griffin then set up a company on P.E.I. and began selling lots on the property he supposedly didn't own.
In February of this year, IRAC ordered Griffin to produce documents about the original purchase. He refused, and IRAC levied the fine.
At Thursday's hearing, the lawyer for the commission announced Griffin had admitted the day before that he had done wrong. Griffin spoke briefly to the commission from Florida by phone.
The case was adjourned to Dec. 11, when IRAC will decide Griffin's additional penalty for contravening the Lands Protection Act.
Griffin said he intends to put the land up for sale.