Landowners group claims Galiano Island restricts building

A group of Galiano Island landowners is taking the community’s local trust committee to court to overturn a bylaw that they claim wrongfully restricts residential buildings on privately managed forest land.

The Galiano Forest Lot Owners Association and members Preston Family Forest Ltd., Winstanley Forest Ltd., Boscher Construction Ltd., and Olaf Knezevic filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 15.

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It names the Galiano Island Local Trust Committee as a respondent.

The owners’ association, according to the petition, has about 50 members and was formed to “advocate for residential dwelling rights” on privately managed forest land.

The petitioners claim a land-use bylaw adopted by the island’s trust committee in 1999 unlawfully restricts residential buildings, allowing for only “a single non-residential unenclosed building or structure with a floor area not exceeding 93 square meters.”

“The Trust Committee has consistently directed the Capital Regional District to reject building permit application for residential dwellings on F1-zoned managed forest reserve lands,” the petition states.

Private managed forest land is subject to lower property taxes under the Assessment Act, but owners must commit to manage the lands and “set out long-term forest management objectives regarding the growing and harvesting of trees, reforestation, fire protection, soil conservation, water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.”

The petitioners claim the bylaw is “repugnant” to provincial policy governing forest land reserve properties because the Forest Land Reserve Act (FLRA) “expressly permitted the construction of a single-family dwelling on forest reserve land, recognizing that a dwelling was essential to carrying out ongoing forest management activities.”

“The FLRA therefore demonstrated a clear intention on the part of the provincial legislature to permit small foresters to live on their land and to be assessed lower taxes and an inducement for managing their forest reserve lands,” the petition states.

The petition’s factual basis has not been tested in court.

The Galiano Island Local Trust Committee has yet to file a response.

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