An open letter to BC MLAs who support the ALR

Thank you whatever help you can manage!*

Every one of you—every green, orange or red MLA—please act together on this as British Columbians, transcending everything else.

You probably know that Richmond is fast losing its ALR farms to non-farm mansion use. While that city’s ALR has been almost defenceless, perhaps you can deter the pillage before your community and its ALR are hit as hard.

For better or worse, the legislature’s action or inaction will have wide ALR effects. We need you all to amend Section 18 of the Agricultural Land Commission Act.

Let Section 18 forbid “a residence with a floor area of more than 500 square metres” on ALR land. For years and for all of BC, that has been a Ministry of Agriculture suggestion in its Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas.** Make it law!

Then ask the minister to fix the guide advice on how to set local limits. It’s hard to know how to act on gobbledygook like the guide’s “commensurate with urban areas” standard, but Richmond staff found a way. They came up with a farm residence limit of 300 square metres.

Siding with election-expense funders, Richmond council ignored the staff method and embraced the speculator method: to brainstorm “compromises” between the proposed BC limit and infinity. The outcome was ludicrous too.

Beyond passing that BC limit into law, MLAs can’t force any local council to do its part, but the guide could show it how. It could express the “commensurate” principle like this:

In order to direct the largest residential uses to non-farm areas, a municipality may set a lower floor-area limit for ALR residences below the provincial limit. It would typically be the average floor area the municipality permits on urban lots that are zoned for detached houses.

The related Richmond staff calculation of 300 square metres (3,230 square feet, a big house) would serve the purpose. Be aware that a Richmond bylaw already gives farmers an efficient means to be permitted to exceed the local limit if need be. This approach could easily be implemented by municipalities throughout BC.

Be aware, too, that Section 18 of the ALC Act already forbids any building “to be erected on the land except for farm use.” To enforce it, the strict approach (not recommended here) would be to end any and all construction of non-farm residences on ALR farmland.

When ALR speculators protest the updates to the ALC Act and bylaw guide, perhaps you can tell them what they strictly deserve.

Sincerely,
Your faithful ALR***

Bcc: All who respect, defend and help revitalize the ALR. See final note.***

______

* This letter was prompted by “Green’s Weaver takes aim at ALR speculation, “ Richmond News, Oct. 18.

** “2.4.6.5.3 Maximum Floor Area—Farm Residences” is on page 19 of the Guide for Bylaw Development in Farming Areas, page 19 (PDF page 26), just before 2.4.7.

*** On ALR behalf, the Garden City Conservation Society wrote this and a recent letter to the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture, with a “Bcc” to all ALR supporters. The Letter to Ms Popham, written in collaboration with Richmond FarmWatch, addresses this topic in depth.

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