Celebrate success in spite of failure

Richmond’s new farmland bylaws put a limit on the largest mega-mansions, but they still batter our endangered ALR farmland.

That’s because council, obeying the farmland-owner lobby, set a farmland house-size limit that’s two to four times what it should be under the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Their so-called compromise obliterates the ministry’s aims, such as minimizing any loss of ALR farmland to non-farmer residential use. If the Serengeti National Park compromised its 2,700 endangered elephants council-style, they’d end up shot.

If you’re pro-elephant or pro-farmland, it’s a less than pretty picture. As Richmond’s ALR legacy gets tossed aside, what can we still do?

Celebrate! Celebrate that Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day did everything in their power to educate their colleagues. Celebrate that Harold, 80 years young, worked all night to prepare his final case for ALR values and shared it with vigor at the public hearing.

Celebrate the seven hundred citizens who took part in early consultation. Celebrate that three hundred citizens then got involved—with self-sacrifice for the common good—to put council in a position to not torpedo the ALR.

Celebrate how citizens mastered the issue to simplify all aspects for council members who have difficulty with reading or finding time for it.

For example, John Roston used graphics to unmask the fallacy that people with the occupation of farmer should always be treated like farmers. John would say that a farmer who is also a surgeon should be treated like a surgeon when removing appendixes and like a farmer when milking cows.

The graphic shows that the new bylaws smile on farmers, and it’s fine they’ve been enabled to easily exceed the house-size limit for non-farmers. But the bylaws should not coddle farmers in their land-investor role, especially when they demand a sky-high house-size limit to inflate the selling price of their land.

Despite John’s input, the council members who fawn on landed farmer-investors clung to an imagined duty to assure their wealth. So we have a bylaw that allows huge farmland houses up to 1000 square metres, as specified by the head farmer-investor.

Skewed council thinking has persisted even though the farmer-investors revealed their perspective early on. One even said, “The elephant in the room is land value,” but some on council wouldn’t heed it if it sat on them.

In contrast, Richmond could have progressed toward protecting our battered farmland and the fragile status of newer lessee farmers—with livelihoods at the lessors’ whims. They are the future that an oblivious council squashes.

We’ve needed to mourn, but let’s get back to celebrating our citizens who made success possible (even though it got blocked). Let’s renew our focus, energy and resolve, and let’s keep up the thoughtfulness.

The trick is to start. Please take a moment to be one in spirit with our farmland lessees, voiceless but vital.

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