Governance & Politics
September 28, 2018

Richmond City Council~Conflict of Interest and Code of Conduct now in the Same Sentence


Back to the City of Richmond where the majority of City Councillors have been absolutely complicit in the dismantling of the protected Agricultural Land Reserve farmlands which in this municipality are the best farmlands in Canada. Surprisingly there is not a bigger public outcry on how this City Council has failed future food security and the right of farmers to be able to own and access farmland close to market. Meanwhile Richmond City staff are processing 61 applications carving up farmland as approved by this Council for quick developer profit, despite staff’s recommendation to Council that this was a very bad idea.

There is some weirdness in the majority of Council supporting supernormal land lift profits and a series of loopholes for offshore buyers in numbered companies. These “developers” are turning  protected farmland into gated offshore owned estates. This is happening despite the fact that this farmland is designated as part of the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve set up in the 1970’s.

Price Tags has been documenting the unbelievable usurping of these prime farmlands for gated estates, with mansions of almost 11,000 square feet, while 5,382 square feet is the permitted maximum under the provincial regulation. We’ve also documented that besides approving these monster houses on supposedly protected farmlands, Richmond City Council also rubber stamped an additional house of 3,200 square feet on larger properties for the “help”.

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It is election season and in the City of Richmond the spin has  started. Under the banner “Richmond First” Richmond councillors Dang, McNulty and McPhail who voted for allowing  mega mansions of nearly 11,000 square feet  on the most fertile and important farmland in Canada are campaigning to get back on Richmond Council.

And they have added a weird twist. They are not saying that they have given in to developer pressure and have approved the creation of the tax loopholed  offshore owned gated estates on Class 1 supposedly Provincially protected agricultural lands. Nor are they saying anything about the innovative “get rich quick” scheme of buying land at agricultural land prices and morphing it into exclusive multi-million dollar estates with the associated land lift.  They also have conveniently forgotten  that the Province has mandated that the maximum size of houses on farmland is  5,832 square feet, specifically to stop speculation.

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There’s no way to sugar coat what has been happening in the City of Richmond with the majority of their elected council.

Council members have been complicit in ponying up with the “get rich quick” segment of farmland owners who know their land would be worth more if it was not, well, agricultural.

Jack Trovato, who is running for council with the Richmond Citizens’ Association, is now calling for a change to the rules of the game, one that would pull down one of the curtains hiding any actual conflicts of interest.

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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).

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Richmond’s vintage Lansdowne Centre Mall, age 41, is getting a facelift, but maybe not the type you’d assume for its location — smack dab in the middle of a downtown not typically known for its active transportation facilities, or lifestyle.

But it’s true: for this future development, cars are out; transit is in. Even bikes feature in the planning docs and related literature. For residents and visitors alike, this is big.

As usual, click an image to see a larger version.

A few thoughts come to mind.

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Surprise — this October’s civic election in British Columbia will be no less gripping for those outside of the Vancouver echo chamber.

In the City of Richmond, and perhaps Delta too, citizens will directly decide on the city’s future as it relates to values around agricultural land protection, food security, and pushing back against deep-pocketed development.

The roots of the fight to come go way back; early European settlements used Lulu island (so named in 1862) for farming and fishing. It’s a big reason why Richmond got the name ‘the Garden City’. Farming is still important to Richmond today; Harold Steves, a longstanding Councillor for the City of Richmond, is also a farmer, and his family’s roots in Richmond date back to the early farming settlements of this place.

His family is why we have a village named Steveston, and Clr. Steves is one of the people for whom we have to thank for the Agricultural Land Reserve, established in 1973.

He’s also one of the few people in the halls of power fighting for its survival.

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Price Tags has been documenting the unfortunate story of the mowing down of provincial farmland ostensibly under provincial protection via the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), developed in 1972, and currently being ignored by municipal councils with highly questionable motives.
The City of Richmond is currently on a tear, looking to approve 61 development applications for 10,700 square foot mansions with 3,200 square foot second houses (for “the help”?); the land is being sold off for cheap, the estates being built are usually gated, and the ownership often offshore. And Richmond isn’t alone in their march to hand off as much of the ALR as they can.
The City of Delta has turned agricultural lands into industrial lands (and even a parking lot for trucks). Abbotsford and Langley also want to carve out agricultural land for industrial and residential uses. The City of Surrey wants to reclassify 235 hectares from rural to a bunch of urban uses, moving urban containment boundaries. And with the spotlight finally being shone on these questionable land deals, a dirty word has also begun to pop up — corruption.

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If you attended Monday night’s City of Richmond council meeting, or watched their live stream, you were witness to one of the biggest land-use travesties of this generation.
Council didn’t just approve residential development on Class 1 farmland, the best in Richmond (and possibly in Canada). The majority voted in favour of mansions up to 10,764 square feet, plus additional dwellings for farm workers up to 3,229 square feet.
That’s almost 14,000 square feet of total living space, effectively available for development by a single person or family. Many are owned by offshore interests.

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It’s pretty obvious that the houses being built are not farmhouses, but are being built as luxury estates”. 
Price Tags has been documenting the City of Richmond’s refusal to recognize and protect farmland designated as part of the Province of British Columbia’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
But first, in case you’ve missed our coverage — and definitely before you skip to the video which, at just over 90 seconds, delivers quite the gut punch — some background.

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