Saturday, September 10, 2005


The Streamside Protection Legislation: You are the Bait.

And now, for something completely different: your local government is mingling into your own affairs ! Well, it hardly comes as a surprise for most of us. Property owners are going to be prohibited from developing or redeveloping residential, commercial and industrial properties along urban rivers, streams, creeks, brooks and ... yes ... even ditches. The Provincial Government estimates that population growth and accompanying land development have resulted in the loss of hundreds of kilometers of streamside habitat in the Lower Mainland. To stop this, the Government has ingeniously come up with a brand new and shiny legislation: the Streamside Protection Legislation (SPL) - another example of your tax dollars at work. Under the SPL, streamside and enhancement areas are defined as adjacent to streams that link 'aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems and include both riparian area vegetation and adjacent upland vegetation that exerts an influence on the stream'.
Under the SPL existing permanent structures, roads and other development are grandparented. This means that landowners can continue to use their properties including 'the repair, renovation or reconstruction' thereof so long as it is all done on existing foundations. Likewise, developments that have received final approval including a development permit are allowed to continue. And, naturally, federal land and First Nations reserves are exempt. For everybody else - the vast majority of individual property owners and land developers - any future development, restructuring, remodelling of existing property becomes taboo. This covers an estimated 700 to 800 streams and creeks in both the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley areas. There is, of course, a need to protect important fish-bearing streams, but the SPL goes too far in that it designates a fish-bearing stream as 'a stream in which fish are present or potentially present' . This definition includes ditches and other waterways that have never been and never will be fish-bearing.
To add gasoline on fire, furthermore, the Legislation impacts property rights without compensation for any loss in value. The real estate industry has been working hard on behalf of landowners to allow compensation when properties are affected by expropriation proceedings under the Expropriation Act and for the setting of a reasonable mechanism to determine the actual loss of market value as well as an appeal process in place for unsatisfied property owners. Under this Legislation, moreover, a typical 10-acre parcel that could otherwise be subdivided into 50 - 60 standard lots will yield just 25 - 30 lots. Which ultimately means that the loss in value will be passed by the developer to the consumer, thus raising real estate costs and contributing therefore to an already very hyper-inflated industry.
Luigi Frascati

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