B.C. Greens and Richmond residents call for provincial action following council vote on ALR

After council voted to keep the status quo on home sizes in Richmond’s agricultural land reserve and permit a secondary dwelling without rezoning, B.C.’s Greens are putting pressure on the province to step in.

“Mega mansions on ALR land are imperiling our food security, destroying agricultural land and driving up prices well beyond the reach of young farmers,” said Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Greens in a press release.

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“The provincial government has a number of tools at its disposal that it should immediately use to address the issue of speculation on ALR land. These include restricting foreign ownership of ALR land, applying the speculation tax and foreign buyers tax to the ALR or creating legally binding house size limits. It should use at least one of these immediately to prevent the loss of any more farmland.”

John Roston, Richmond resident and member of Richmond FarmWatch, spoke to a Green party representitive on Tuesday and would also like to see immediate action from the province.

“What we’re trying to get (the provincial government) to do is issue a moratorium (on development),” he said, adding that the Greens appear to be focused on dealing with the issue of foreign buyers.

“If push comes to shove, deciding on house sizes is far more important than forbidding foreigners.”

Following this, Roston says he’s waiting to hear the feedback gathered from the Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on the ALR and the Agricultural Land Commission, which wrapped up its consultation process earlier this month.

“What we’re really interested in are the recommendations,” Roston said. “We’re trying to figure how can we do something to lessen the damage that’s been done. So let’s assume there’s a mansion on it, what can we do about it?”

One of Roston’s ideas includes following a model from France, where leases on farmland are a minimum of nine years long. In his opinion, this would give young farmers who can’t afford to buy a property the opportunity to invest in their farm business. Roston also hopes to see young farmers on the city’s Agricultural Advisory Committee

For Adam Olsen, Green party member and MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, local governments across B.C. have been seeking provincial action for years.

“This decision at Richmond Council will drive the price of ALR in their community sky high, it will impact the rest of the province and demonstrates the need for action at the provincial level,” Olsen said in a press release.

“Delaying action only causes the issue to spiral further out of control: Last year, Richmond alone lost 50 farms due to the construction of mega-mansions on farmland. I urge the Minister in the strongest terms to recognize to take immediate action before any more farmland is lost.”
 

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