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Finally the Agricultural Land Reserve’s independent committee  has stepped in on the ongoing repurposing of the best agricultural land in Canada to privately owned gated estates, many in numbered companies and owned offshore for multi-millionaire elite.

Richmond City Council is in complicit in this destruction, allowing mansions of almost 11,000 square feet to be built on Class one agricultural land, and also allowing a 3,200 square foot additional house for the “help” on larger properties. Richmond has 61 applications they are now processing as the supposedly protected Class 1 agricultural land is busily carved up for short profit developer gain, exempt from foreign buyer’s tax, and getting property tax breaks by producing a rock bottom minimal “profit” on the land.

On Wednesday, the eight-member group submitted a report to the agricultural minister with 13 recommendations for legislative and regulatory change that would better protect B.C.’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). The reserve was set up in 1973 to protect the province’s best farmland from development and now represents about five percent of B.C.’s total landmass. One key recommendation was that the province establish a maximum floor size for all primary residences built on ALR properties, noting the government’s current suggestion of almost 5,400 square feet as a good starting point.

It came up all the time, people felt that it was an abuse of the ALR and increased the levels of speculation on the land,” said committee chair Vicki Huntington, a former independent MLA from Delta South. “They felt that it was detrimental to the preservation of the capacity of the land to be saved for farming, so we felt that it was one of the primary recommendations that we had to make.We’ll see if the government feels that it’s a worthwhile one.”

A Globe and Mail investigation in 2016 looked at the loopholes that has turned farmland into a residential cash cow.  The  Provincial opposition Liberals did themselves no favour by speaking out against the Agricultural Land Reserve, saying that decision-making was being taken away from farmers. That’s too little too late, as the wholesale destruction of the best farmland in Canada has morphed into a get rich quick scheme for exploiting tax loopholes for the super rich, and making multi-million dollar profit for the estate developers. It is time to respond to the wholesale destruction of farmland as if food security and the need for a farming future truly was important.

 

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Comments

  1. This is great news, Sandy.

    The short-term thinking prevalent on Richmond council (with a couple of exceptions) regarding farming is ominous. It doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to see the link between record-breaking severe climate-related drought in California and Mexico, our primary sources of produce for more than half the year, and the need to preserve regional food-producing land for our own food security.

    There are probably 100 years left at best of food-production on the low-elevation Lower Mainland ALR before the rising sea inundates farming and urban communities alike. That’s a century to plan and mitigate (as best as possible), which would be impossible if the land was developed beforehand. In fact, Richmond, which is foremost amongst all cities in BC — and perhaps the entire nation — threatened by future sea-level rise just two or three generations from now, really needs to start thinking about its future in all respects, not just with regard to agriculture and development.

    Outlandish ideas like building giant ferro-concrete rafts for communities and farms (that was once proposed!) may not seem so outlandish to today’s grandchildren when they are middle-aged and the effort to build larger dikes starts to fail.

  2. 61 applications in Richmond alone!? That’s shocking. The NDP needs to act quickly. Even worse is when you see them raise the land as required for new construction – the fill is all sandy, poor soil overlaying the rich soil the Fraser gave Richmond.

  3. The key is immediate action required. Every single week we are losing land in Richmond. I hope the government acts on this immediately.

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