Time to close the barn door on illicit mansion cropping in the City of Richmond. The previous Council’s majority was bullish on developing the supposedly protected farmlands in their jurisdiction with Beverly Hills sizes of mansions, doubling to 11,000 the Provincially allowable square footage to build these on protected agricultural lands. Those councillors took advantage of legislative loopholes that allowed municipalities discretion to create larger houses for “farmers”.
You can be sure that none of the McMansions created will ever return to farmer ownership as most are owned offshore in numbered companies and have made their developers and owners tremendous land lifts in this loopholed residential upzoning of supposedly protected Class 1 farmland.
Those councillors responsible for allowing McMansion cropping on the best farmland in Canada should be named-Chak Au, Linda McPhail, Bill McNulty, Alexa Loo, Derek Dang and Ken Johnston. Mr. Johnston and Mr. Dang lost their seats in the October municipal elections when two new councillors that understood the importance of farmland to the future of the region were elected. Kelly Green and Michael Wolfe joined seasoned Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day and returning Mayor Malcolm Brodie in doing the right thing, and capping the square footage of housing allowed on Richmond agricultural lands.
After the Province’s edict that they were stopping municipalities deciding how massive a mansion could be on farmland, it was no surprise (as reported in the Richmond News ) that a more contrite Council voted unanimously to limit homes on agricultural land as per the Provincially recommended standard. The motion was made by farmer and founder of the Agricultural Land Reserve Harold Steves, limiting houses to 500 square meters (approximately 5300 square feet) and the associated property exclusively for use of the house to 1,000 square meters (approximately 10,700 square feet).
Lana Popham the Minister of Agriculture did not hold back on the McMansioning of the City of Richmond’s farmland. She reminded reporters “Last year, the public learned about a farm in Richmond that was assessed at $85,000 and then it was sold for $9.2 million, more than a hundred times its value assessed for farm use.”
Ms. Popham also suggested the inaction of the previous Provincial Liberal government was also to blame, stating “The old government let wealthy speculators drive the price of farmland out of reach for young farmers and allowed some of our most valuable agricultural land to be damaged.”
Meanwhile 61 applications for McMansions are sadly proceeding in Richmond. And very strangely one of the Councillors consistently voting on large McMansioning of the best farmland in Canada developed a different spin in an interview with the Globe and Mail.
Councillor Bill McNulty actually fingerpointed that it was the provincial NDP government’s fault Richmond farmland is peppered with gated huge estates. Mr. McNulty went on record saying ” This is a provincial thing, the Agricultural Land Commission, the agricultural land bank. It’s the province’s responsibility. For too long, they expected the cities and municipalities to deal with this issue … so the fact they’re looking at it is a good thing.”
It is a pretty remarkable spin. The truth? Municipalities were given discretion from the Province to allow for larger farmhouses if it was clearly for agricultural purposes. That turned out to be a loophole for Councils to approve building large foreign-owned estates without the foreign buyers’ tax, never to return to farming for future generations. The fingerpointing needs to be squarely back at those six Richmond councillors including Mr. McNulty that decided that the future of farming and food security was not as important as short-term developer profit cropping McMansions.