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November 6, 2018

Legislation would restrict size of mansions on B.C. farmland

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The B.C. government has introduced legislation to ban mega-mansions on agricultural farmland by overriding local zoning in cities like Richmond.

Agriculture Minister Lana Popham’s bill introduced Monday would restrict the maximum size of a home on agricultural land reserve property to 5,400 square feet.

That size is already the standard under current ministry guidelines, but until now the province has allowed municipalities to set their own bylaws on the issue. Richmond, where the problem of mansions on farmland is most acute, set in 2017 the maximum house size of 10,743 sq. ft. on agricultural land.

Popham told the legislature the changes were made because the public has told her government that it supports a much stronger approach to protecting farmland.

“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,” Popham said in a news release. “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.”

Larger homes could still be allowed if they receive an exemption from the agricultural land commission as necessary for farming, and municipalities would be allowed to restrict home sizes even further if they’re below the provincial maximum. Existing construction projects over the maximum size will be grandfathered if the legislation passes.

The issue has been a divisive one in the farming community, with some saying speculators are buying cheaper farmland to build large homes that are flipped for profit, while others say large homes are necessary to house the multi-generational families that are increasingly used to operate a farm.

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