Book highlights Oak Bay homeowners’ $700K headache

Fraser Institute author, Mark Milke, argues against government “expropriation” of private land

The case of Oak Bay homeowners who spent $700,000 on a government-ordered archeological dig is among those included in a new book that argues properties are devalued by government regulation.

“If government wants something for a public end, whether its to protect archeological artifacts or to put a highway through … there’s a case to be made for compensation, especially when it gets to such an egregiously high levels as it has in Oak Bay,” said Mark Milke, senior fellow at the Fraser Institute and author of Stealth Confiscation: How Governments Regulate, Freeze, and Devalue Private Property – Without Compensation.

Milke discusses the 2007 situation that saw Oak Bay residents Wendi Mackay and her husband Robert Edwards pay $200,000 for an archaeological dig after having discovered remains during redevelopment of their property. The couple claims to have spent a total of $700,000 after all the fees and legal costs were tallied – a cost they managed to afford, Milke said, but one other property owners would find an insurmountable hurdle to development.

“These sorts of regulatory actions, when they start to cost that much money, we’re not talking about buying a parking permit for your street… It really becomes akin to expropriation. If it’s designated as public good – and this idea of archaeological preservation is – then there has to be some attention given to the possibility of compensation, otherwise there are a lot of people who won’t be able to do anything with their properties.”

Also covered in the book: the remains discovered on private property near the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, a find which halted plans to build a $1-million home and sparked a police probe into allegations that the property’s owners violated the Heritage Conservation Act.

“The common link between all the cases is that governments increasingly avoid expropriation directly and instead regulate the property for some public purpose,” Mark added. “Governments are increasingly using regulation in the same way, except there’s no compensation attached.”

Milke will be discussing these cases during a Fraser Institute policy briefing at the Union Club on Jan. 29. Tickets to the talk are $40, available through fraserinstitute.org.