Tuesday November 6 is a the mid-term election day in the USA but it is also a big day for the City of Richmond too, where the inaugural meeting of the new City Council will include looking at  residential development on agricultural land. 

And it’s not only Richmond under siege with mansion growing~it’s happening in California wine country too.

The last City of Richmond Council has been complicit in allowing the best agricultural lands in Canada supposedly protected under  the Agricultural Land Commission  to become private gated offshore owned estates.

The previous Council against the advice of their own staff endorsed the building of nearly 11,000 square foot mcmansions on farming lands.  That Council also allowed larger farm properties to not only have a huge house, but an additional 3,200 square foot house for the “help”.

The Province has capped housing at 5,382 square feet, and for a good reason, to ensure that land was kept for farming, and that farmers always had access to farmland. Using loopholes in existing legislation offshore buyers can escape paying the foreign buyers’ tax by purchasing agricultural lands, and developers get supernormal landlifts by turning farmland into private exclusive residential estates. The loser? Future food security close to metro markets, and the fact that farmers will never ever be able to own this farmland.

The Napa Register  outlines that in California’s Napa Valley mcmansions are also being built on prime farmland in five and ten-acre parcels. These “mansions” are half the size of the ones that Richmond City Council approved, being only 17 rooms and 6,700 square feet. But again these estates have the same impact, paving  over prime farmland for private residential pools and activities.

Price Tags Vancouver has previously reported that the exploitation of farmland for quick developer profit may be over. A majority of council (including returning Mayor Malcolm Brodie) are now working together to vote for   farmhouse size that is compliant with the Agricultural Land Commission’s guidelines.Scaling back to residential houses of 5,382 square feet gives agricultural land the chance to continue in farmland production as was intended. Price Tags will be watching on Tuesday to see Richmond City Council’s discussion and actions on keeping the best farmland in Canada in production for future generations.

Here’s a tweet from Councillor Harold Steves, a father of the Agricultural Land Reserve, farmer and environmentalist, as well as a long serving member of Richmond City Council on the impact of mansion cropping.



  1. Unfortunately, the change that will be proposed to Richmond Council on Tuesday only limits house construction size to 500 square metres (5,382 square feet) on ALR land in Richmond. In the provincial guideline, that is the upper cutoff figure that applies when a local government calculates its maximum size at above 500 square metres, which is conceivable in some municipalities but does not apply in Richmond. Richmond staff have calculated the appropriate local maximum to be 303 square metres, which should probably round to 300 square metres (about 3,200 square feet). That is the maximum size that can be built on the average detached single-family residential lot in Richmond under the relevant Richmond bylaw, and it is the common-sense way to apply the current fuzzy provincial guideline. The purpose of setting a limit (as stated in the provincial guideline) is to divert residential construction from ALR land to urban residential neighbourhoods. (And, by the way, Section 18 of the ALC Act implicitly doesn’t permit non-farm residences at all. It does not permit any non-farm buildings on ALR land, other than ones that are specifically exempt. ) Of course, the farmland speculators have ways to exert a great deal of power over Richmond council, and they are very likely to be using every means to influence the precarious likelihood that council will twice pass the proposal, first at a committee meeting of the whole council and then at a special council meeting that would follow the committee meeting. In any case, what is being proposed is less bad and undoubtedly the best that Mayor Malcolm Brodie will agree to at this time. It is harm reduction, but it is not a thorough solution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *