The owners of a historic Richmond farm have listed the property for sale at $55 million — twice its agricultural value — after failing in the past to remove it from the Agriculture Land Reserve and either subdivide the land or turn it into a golf course.
Colliers Canada, which is marketing the 324.5-acre property dubbed Gilmore Estates, suggested the deal is a “rare opportunity to acquire a unique site within the urban core with the potential for the development of numerous estate lots.” Cecilia Tse, senior vice-president, Asia Pacific, said Colliers is targeting either a strategic investor, or a farmer to buy the property.
The land, owned by Gilmore Estates since the 1970s, is still being farmed for a variety of products including potatoes, strawberries and Christmas trees, and represents about one per cent of the entire land area of Richmond, according to Colliers.
The owners paid $21,907.38 in property taxes on the land in 2012.
“It is an urban agricultural land, it’s really prime location,” Tse said. “This is different from other farmland that is on the market right now ... this one is unique because of the size and the location.”
Gilmore Estates, which consists of 10 legal titles with 800 feet of it fronting the Fraser River, is located south of Steveston Highway and runs along the waterfront, between No. 4 Road and Shell, and has about six homes on the property.
The land is separate from the 200-acre Gilmore Farm, which straddles No. 8 Road south of Westminster Highway almost to the Fraser River and is owned by Port Metro Vancouver.
Both parcels are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and the city is battling to keep both of them there.
The city is calling on the federal government to ban the port from using its agricultural land for future port expansion, noting because the port is an arm of the federal government, it can develop the farmland without going before the province’s agricultural land commission for approval.
Gilmore Estates, meanwhile, would first have to go through Richmond City Hall before applying to the Agricultural Land Commission to remove the land.
Richmond Coun. Harold Steves noted Gilmore Estates has some of the best arable farmland in Metro Vancouver, with 49 per cent cited as Class A, and the city wouldn’t support smaller lots or industry on the site. He noted the agricultural price would be “half the price they’re asking for.”
“They’ve made applications four or five times before,” Steves said. “The odds of getting this land out of the ALR for another use is pretty slim. The only way to overrule the Agricultural Land Reserve is if the port bought it.”
Gilmore Estates has been the focus of several debates over the past few decades, according to a City of Richmond staff report, starting with an unsuccessful bid to rezone it industrial, followed by a golf course application, and a pitch that would have seen the city receive one-third of the land in exchange for developing the rest of the property into smaller lots, similar to a proposal by Century Group for Delta’s Southlands — formerly owned by the Spetifore family — in Tsawwassen. No decision has been made on the Delta application.
A request made by Craig Rowland, listed as president of the Gilmore Estates, in 2000 to reconfigure the boundaries of nine lots, which would have resulted in seven small lots ranging in size from two to 2.41 hectares, was also rejected.
Steves said the city wants the farm to remain as it is. If the future owners want to reconfigure the lots to make them smaller, he added, they would have to go to the city. “As far as we’re concerned, that’s the way they should stay,” he said.
Tse said talks are ongoing with a local investor, as well as a buyer from Asia who wants to farm the land. She noted the Asian buyer wants the entire Gilmore Estates parcel, but it’s a bit too early to say what they would do with the land later on.
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