No. 4 Road and double standards

Bulletin added on May 20: This matter has been deferred to the next Planning Committee meeting (in June).

On Wednesday, May 20, at 4 p.m., Richmond Council’s Planning Committee is considering whether to pass on to the Agricultural Land Commission some applications to exclude No. 4 Road properties from the ALR. There’s also an application to exclude a small area on Triangle Road for church use. Here’s the Planning Meeting info.

I think it’s good to clean up these matters as a step toward harmonizing/rationalizing the agricultural zoning system so that the city, metro, and provincial guardians of agricultural land all speak with one voice. Among other things, that would enable them to stand half a chance when coming up against the federal government.

Beyond that, one part of me wants the applications to go forward to the Agricultural Land Commission so that the property owners can get fairer treatment than they have been receiving from the city. Another part of me naturally wants to avoid the slippery slope of agricultural-land concessions.

What is striking in the staff reports is the double standards. For instance, staff is talking about how the No. 4 Road lots could be suitable for urban agriculture, even though they claimed that the Garden City Lands were not suitable for agriculture. Whereas the Garden City Lands are over 136 acres, the No. 4 Road lots in the current applications are all smaller than half an acre, and one is less than a fifth of an acre. They are so small that the ALR regulations don’t even apply to them (even though they are within the ALR boundary). Yet staff’s recommendation to city council, prepared under Canada Lands Company direction, was for the City of Richmond to apply to the Agricultural Land Commission to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR. And, in contrast, the staff recommendation to city council now is to prevent even the No. 4 Road applicant with a 0.18 acre lot from asking the commission to exclude it from the ALR.

While sympathetic, I can’t support the No. 4 Road applications for exclusion from the ALR. However, I do support better treatment for all owners of small agricultural properties. The ALR-exclusion application for the Garden City Lands repeatedly showed disrespect toward even the people who make their living as growers on relatively small farms. The vague agricultural endowment fund idea in the application even repeatedly distinguished them from “bona fide farmers.” That application was directed by and for Canada Lands Company, but the City of Richmond let itself be the figurehead applicant and provided a lot of staff time. Citizens of Richmond and all communities can surely expect better from the tax-paid people who have brought on this state of affairs.

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