There’s a farmland travesty occurring in Richmond where city council has been influenced to approve mansions of 10,700 square feet on farmland over one half an acre, and on larger parcels, an additional house of 3,200 square feet for the “help”.

This is all a shell game in more than one sense. The pro-development Richmond Farmland Owner’s Association (you will note that is farmland owners, not farmers) has organized a $ummer Barbeque (yes they use the $ sign for the “S”) to raise money for the six councillors who were complicit in the McMansioning of City of Richmond farmland, ignoring the cap established by the province for houses on agricultural land (previously 5,382 square feet).

Faithful Price Tags readers will recall that vast portions of Class 1 agricultural lands supposedly protected by provincial legislation to ensure food security for future generations, and the accessibility of good soils for local farmers have been sold to developers, often in shell companies to create large gated mansions.

Everyone profits — the farmland is sold for more, the developer sells the property for even more, and the buyer can take advantage of significant loopholes in legislation, meaning there is no 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax to be paid, and if there is a small profit made on berries or a horse, the property can also enjoy the much lower agricultural property tax rate.

It’s the perfect scam. Richmond council has been complicit in undermining the integrity and intent of the Agricultural Land Reserve by approving these changes. And now this.

The barbeque fundraiser invite has spread quickly on Twitter; the Richmond Farmland Owners Association also has a Facebook page which has several videos, including one of a young man saying he only wants to live in the same kind of house as people in the centre of Richmond. That sounds very nice, but people in the centre of Richmond don’t live in 10,700 square foot mansions, or partake in supernormal profit by selling land zoned for farm use as exclusive private estates. It is all very shady.

The optics of this group fundraising for councillors who have ignored agricultural policy is striking. Even The Richmond News reported some of the social media activity, including a tweet from John Roston running for Richmond Council:

When #RichmondBC councillors vote to help you make millions on your farmland by allowing mega mansions, it’s only polite to thank them.

And Councillor Harold Steves, one of the founders of the Agricultural Land Reserve responded by a tweet saying:

six #RichmondBC councillors ‘opened the barn door for rampant speculation on agricultural farmland’…they are supported by the ‘Farmland Owners’ who are fundraising to keep them in office,” “VoteThemOut.”

While the corruption word was being bandied about, the Farmland Owner’s Association said the poster was a “mistake”. It was for their “membership” and you can join for $100. The poster was changed “to remove details about the event being a fundraiser”.

The tweet from Kelley Greene, another candidate for Council sums up the whole event:

“Looks like a busy fundraising weekend for #Richmond BC city councillors who are in favour of luxury estates on farmland. Their names were scrubbed from the poster after the fact. Something to hide? #Richmond Last  #ALR  #ConflictOfInterest #BackroomDeal #Richmond Deserves Better. “

Photo of Richmond Farmland Owners Association courtesy PNG Merlin Archive.

Comments

  1. THANKS for getting this important story out beyond “sleepy” Richmond -where voters will hopefully not be sleeping come November. The ruse performed by the Richmond Farmland Owner’s Assocation is an easy one to fall for. Many if not most of them are in fact part-time farmers, growing cash crops on under-utilized land, (whilst spoiling that land with acidic wood chips between blueberry rows) but realizing the windfall they can benefit from, whether in building their dream home for today or for cashing it in when they decide to take advantage of certain Richmond councillors’ generosity.

  2. Thank you Sandy for this important public service. It should be noted that mayor Malcolm Brodie and councillor Harold Steves did not support the vote approving these tick tacky and terribly inappropriate “estates.”

    Richmond is not the only city in the Metro being targeted for fake (well, barely functional ) farms.

    1. That’s a good question. About two months back I filled out a questionnaire on the ALR as part of public consultation and it focused on this issue quite strongly. Presumably they’re still chewing on it.

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