PEI

Regulatory agency overruled every time on land purchases

The P.E.I. cabinet overruled every decision by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to reject non-resident land purchases last year.

The P.E.I. cabinet overruled every decision by the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to reject non-resident land purchases last year.

Under provincial legislation, non-residents may not own more than two hectares (five acres) of land. Anyone who wants to purchase more must apply to IRAC. The commission approved hundreds of applications last year.

"We may for instance look at whether the property has been advertised in the local market so that locals or Islanders have a chance to bid on the property if they're interested," IRAC vice-chair Brian McKenna told CBC News on Friday.

"We look at, say, the concentration of non-resident owners in a certain area; we look at existing land use and what is the land use surrounding this parcel."

Last year, IRAC rejected only three applications. For two, it ruled the sale hadn't been advertised locally. The third was from a corporation that wanted to build a subdivision in a rural area. IRAC said it had concerns about development encroaching in rural areas.

McKenna said in all three cases, cabinet overruled IRAC and let the purchases go ahead, meaning in the end, no applications were rejected last year.

"It's pretty unusual I think," he said.

"But here are guidelines and in the end executive council has to make a decision, and it, of course, is accountable to the public."  

Because the decisions are made in cabinet, they are governed by cabinet secrecy, and government doesn't tell IRAC why it decides to overrule the commission's recommendations.

Community and Cultural Affairs Minister Carolyn Bertram, the minister responsible for land issues, could not be reached for comment.