Exellence in protecting Richmond farmland

Should Richmond council (A) kowtow to ALR speculators or (B) do their job? A or B?

If you chose B, please ask council to respect our farmland and the citizens they swore to serve. (Details at end.)

Your efforts will support Richmond staff. For years, some of them have tried to get council to stop misuse of our farmland, which is almost all in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

Remember: “We have to protect our farmland.” That’s a mantra of our entry-level farmers, and they’re right. If council heeds those words, all will be well.

What could matter more? Speculators who’ve trained council to jump for them?

Note: I’ll use the general word “speculators” to include money launderers, opportunists, farmland investors, etc.

Speculators hoard farmland as a commodity to store, build and flaunt their wealth. That can easily conflict with the ALR as a collective reserve that stores agricultural value for the long-term benefit of British Columbians.

The Richmond farming establishment, who inherited much of their land, do care about farming. It’s lucky for them when farmland prices shoot up, but it’s sad when they lobby for non-farm mansions on ALR land to keep those prices high.

Then there’s the scum that Douglas Todd described in Saturday’s Sun. The global “corrupt elite” buy expensive properties here with stolen wealth. I bet that’s had a part in the frenzy of mega-mansions planned for Richmond farmland: 25 that are over 12,000 square feet in the first quarter of 2017, almost equaling the previous seven years.

So how can we protect our farmland? By doing the obvious. There’s a proven solution, roughly what Delta does. A staff report explains the approach, but it seems that some council members missed it or didn’t grasp it.

The essence: Limit farmland house size enough to divert construction of non-farm residences from the ALR to residential areas. (And include a simple approval process so farmers can exceed the limit—for example, for a large extended family of farmers.)

Site Economics consultant Richard Wozny calculated the optimal farmhouse size limit for Richmond. Staff then expressed it as “Option 3”: a limit of 3,650 square feet (plus garage). Simply making that option a bylaw would greatly reduce the problem.

However, staff also calculated slightly differently and arrived at an “Option 2” with a limit of 3,261 square feet (plus garage). After taking a lot of factors into consideration, I’m convinced that Option 2 is the best one for protecting farmland.

Coun. Harold Steves and staff favoured an “Option 1” with a higher limit than Options 2 and 3, but that will not protect farmland nearly as well.

All three of those options can be said to meet the provincial guideline, but Option 2 (limit of 3,261 square feet of flaw area) is best for diverting non-farmer’s residences from ALR/Agriculture farmland to urban residential areas.

Shockingly, Mayor Malcolm Brodie jumped to a limit of almost 10,800 square feet (but half that for lots under 0.2 hectares). Only Coun. Steves and Coun. Carol Day voted against it.

Other than lopping a tier of mega-mansions, the mayor surrendered to the speculators, ignoring massive public input, staff expertise and Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Coun. Day urges us to attend the public hearing about this at City Hall on Monday, May 15, at 7 p.m. Come early to sign in to speak (10-minute limit). Remember, “We have to protect our farmland.”

_________________

Notes:

Instead of putting in a lot more links, I’ve put many of them in the form of this helpful memo to council. Also, refer to the farmhouse bylaws: Bylaw 9712, the ALR house size bylaw, which I see as a disaster (along with the related Bylaw 9717) and Bylaw 9706, which allows exception for farmers (useful, in my view).

For tips about participating in the Public Hearing, scroll down or click on “Succeeding at the farm house public hearing.”

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