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Meanwhile back in Richmond it is no surprise that there is pushback from people owning farm property about Richmond’s proposed  restrictions of limiting the amount of area that houses can be built on, and how big those houses can be.  I have been writing about the fact that the City of Richmond previous council allowed for houses of almost 11,000 square feet to be built on the best agricultural lands in Canada, with additional houses of 3,200 square feet on the same property for the “help”.

Despite the fact that these properties are protected by the Province’s  Agricultural Land Reserve, the City of Richmond council participated in enabling these properties to leave their agricultural designation at agricultural land prices, and be developed and sold as private gated estates to offshore buyers. Those buyers  escaped the foreign buyers’ tax, and were able to keep the taxing on their property to agricultural rates by raising a crop or a cow.

Some of these properties have houses in the 17,000 square foot range. This is way beyond the 5,382 square foot  (500 square meters) house mandated by the Province for agricultural lands, to ensure that these properties would remain in agriculture and be accessible to future farmers.

While Richmond now has over 60 applications for large mansions on farmland in their process, there was a surprise at Richmond Council when a motion supporting an even smaller housing size than that proposed by the Province was passed. Instead of a 500 square meter house being allowed, a motion passed for housing size to be limited to 400 square meters.

The rationale was that this is the maximum amount of house that could be built elsewhere in Richmond, and that limit should also be applied to Richmond’s Class 1 farmland, which by the way is the best arable land in Canada. The Mayor of Richmond, Malcolm Brodie stated it correctly when he told the Richmond NewsI believe that we have to support farmers,” “The people who own farms, the farmers, are not happy about going down to 500 square metres and I am sure they are far more unhappy about 400.”

While this all seems a bit strange when the previous Council allowed for mega mansions way over the size recommended by the Province, it was suggested that the 500 square meters should be viewed as the  maximum attainable, and  the actual square footage should be in compliance with the rest of Richmond’s housing. The public hearing is tonight, and while it appears that the barn door has already been opened wide for  massive mansion development and is now being shut, it will be an interesting discussion.  What can be built as housing on Richmond farmland, why and for whom? And if it is a bigger property, can it have the additional 100 square meters to be a 500 square meter house as per the Province’s recommended limit?

What a shame the previous Richmond City Council did not have this discussion before 60 more applications for the mcmansioning of  Richmond farmland were in the process.

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Comments

  1. The relevant current document is the Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas, https://bit.ly/2QDh5Tq. It suggests that the maximum floor area of farm residences be “the lesser of floor area commensurate with urban areas” or 500 square metres (2.4.6.5.3). The late economist Richard Wozny seems to have been the foremost expert, and he calculated that the “commensurate” floor area for Richmond would be just under 400 square metres.

    A key stated purpose of the guide’s restriction is “directing the largest residential uses in a community to non-farming areas” (2.4.6). Note that the stated “500 square metres” is just a cutoff that applies if a municipality calculates “commensurate with urban areas” as higher than that 500 figure. It does not apply to Richmond.

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