Thank goodness there’s someone in Victoria taking stock of the snuffing out of farm land in Richmond by council. (In case you somehow missed coverage of this issue in Price Tags, here’s a link to past posts.)
Andrew Weaver of the Green Party minced no words in casting aspersions on Richmond council’s decision, calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to stymie speculation and rampant development of gated estates on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land.
Mega mansions on ALR land are imperilling our food security, destroying agricultural land and driving up prices well beyond the reach of young farmers. The provincial government has a number of tools at its disposal that it should immediately use to address the issue of speculation on ALR land. These include restricting foreign ownership of ALR land, applying the speculation tax and foreign buyers tax to the ALR or creating legally binding house size limits. It should use at least one of these immediately to prevent the loss of any more farmland.
MLA Adam Olsen (Saanich North and the Islands) described the precise ramifications of the decision, saying it would “drive the price of ALR in their community sky high.”
It will impact the rest of the province and demonstrates the need for action at the provincial level. When I was a Central Saanich Councillor, we knew 10 years ago we needed to take action on limiting house size and location on ALR land, we called on the government of the day to act. We were not alone and rather than take action the Province has buried this issue in consultation only further increasing pressure on the cost of farmland.
The issue of speculation driving up land prices is well-documented and its solutions are clear. Delaying action only causes the issue to spiral further out of control: last year, Richmond alone lost 50 farms due to the construction of mega-mansions on farmland.
I urge the Minister in the strongest terms to recognize to take immediate action before any more farmland is lost.
Since council in the City of Richmond has been unable to demonstrate an understanding of their responsibility to not only resist the pressures of developer friends, but also to uphold the stewardship of food security and future farming generations, it’s time for the Province to step in. Now.