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Vancouver waterfront real estate and the environment (again!)

Blog by Patricia Houlihan - Personal Real Estate Corporation | April 12th, 2007

Okay-I know I may raise environmental issues in this blog far too often but having been an environmental lawyer for almost 20 years, I guess it is to be expected.  I have a client this week who raised a problem that a lot of people likely don't know about.  Most people know that they can't pollute on their property but did you also know that environmental laws can affect where you build on your property?  To explain this in detail would be a bit much (it is a six week course that I teach at BCIT!) but in a nutshell, you need to be aware of environmental laws passed by both the federal and provincial governments as well as municipal environmental bylaws.  If you own property on or near water, the need to be familiar with these laws becomes even more important. There are a number of laws which apply restrictions to protect fish, fish habitat (clients never believe that they have fish habitat on their properties but I can assure you that it is very broadly defined!) and to improve riparian zones.  The client I referred to at the beginning of this has a parcel of land on a lake in the Okanagan.  He has recently discovered that although he has owned this property for decades and has always planned to build a new home on it, he has now been told that the set backs for building essentially destroy his plans.  He also tells me that some of his neighbours with bare land are now unable to build anything on their properties as the setbacks are so significant that the lot sizes will not allow any building once you move back far enough to comply with the setbacks!

I am currently looking into this so will likely provide more information on this later.