Letter: Farmland mansion review a step in the right direction

Dear Editor,

Last week. when most of Richmond’s planning committee voted to send the bylaw regarding home sizes on Richmond’s ALR lands back to staff for further information and more options for preserving land, we felt it was a small step in the right direction.

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Staff were specifically tasked to look at options for smaller home sizes and home plates than allowed under the current bylaw. 

They are also asking for the province to do their part to help municipalities deal with increasing speculation on farmland. 

Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day presented more information to the committee on the mansions that continue to be built under this bylaw (and emphasized that these are not farm homes), and in the end, nearly all members of the planning committee (Chak Au, Bill McNulty, Linda McPhail, Malcolm Brodie and Harold Steves), with the exception of Alexa Loo, voted to send it back to staff. 

We welcome this positive step because it means that council is starting to give equal weight to the voices of the public and not just to the often-overwhelming voices of farmland owners and others interested in keeping farmland prices high.

Although we are concerned that many of the options requested are still not in line with the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines to protect against speculation and residential development of the ALR, it is a much-needed step in the right direction. 

Council is concerned about the footprint of these mansions on farmland, hoping to preserve land for the future. 

While this is a very important goal that we all share, they still need some education on the fact that home sizes are tied to excessive and exponentially larger land pricing on farmland and that is a major issue in restricting agricultural activities.

So, while we heartily commend those councillors who voted in favour of sending this bylaw back to staff, we will continue to monitor this situation in the coming months.

We will continue to advocate to the province and city on the issues around home sizes and footprints on farmland, we will be addressing the inequality of the foreign buyer’s tax on all land BUT farmland, and be asking for consistency to be established for all agricultural land across the region. 

Michelle Li

Richmond FarmWatch

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