Letter: Call the Richmond farmhouses what they are ­­- estates

Dear Editor,

Many people are gravely disappointed with the recent “compromise” from Richmond city council with respect to ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) development.

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Provincial guidelines specify a maximum house size of 500-square-metres (5,382-square-feet) on ALR lots.

In Zone 1 (South Coast, Island, Okanagan) where Richmond is sited, the provincial guidelines further do not recommend a secondary residential building, compared to Zone 2 areas (Interior, Kootenays, North) that do allow for a maximum 300-square-metres (3,229-square-feet) secondary residence.

Richmond city councillors claimed to have gone with a higher house size to address the needs of multi-generational families. However, passing a 1000-square-metre (10,764-square-foot) residential building size is literally double the recommended size, and exceeding the combined residential size allowed in remote Zone 2 ALR areas.

In addition, they also passed a bylaw that allows for applicants to apply for houses in excess of the maximum. Many voters are left wondering where the compromise is?

In allowing nearly 1,000-square-foot houses on ALR, the council (Au, Brodie, Dang, Johnston, Loo, McNulty, McPhail) has undermined key reasons for the provincial guidelines, including directing the largest residential uses in a community to non-farming areas.

And yet just meetings prior, councillors complained that prime ALR land would be taken by the provincial government to build a mega–bridge. But mega–houses are an acceptable ALR use?

Finally, any resident can look in the real estate listings and see these properties marketed as estates. They are sold as estates and bought as estates. That councillors are willing to call an 11,000-square-foot house, with theatre, tennis court, and driving range, a farmhouse shows their willingness to call a duck by another name.

Why is Richmond the Wild West of development? Some of the answers may be in “Election spending broke record,” News Feb. 25, 2015.

Development and growth should be encouraged in a sustainable and thoughtful way, so we can build a strong community now and into the future. Concerned residents can email city council, write letters to the paper, and join Facebook groups. Together, we can do better.

Kelly Greene

Richmond

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