The City of Richmond has voted to limit the size of homes on ALR land to 4,300 square feet — more than 1,000 square feet lower than restrictions on the table for the rest of the province last month.
The vote came at the end of a public hearing that ran well past midnight Tuesday. Only Mayor Malcolm Brodie and two councillors — Alexa Loo and Linda McPhail — were against the idea.
The vote brings somewhat of an end to a two-year saga for the city, sparked by locals concerned about speculation and valuable farmland being kept out of reach for workers.
“It was a huge victory,” said Laura Gillanders with Richmond FarmWatch, a group dedicated to preserving ALR land for the intended purpose of farming, not developing large luxury estates.
“You don’t want speculation on farmland — its a land bank that’s needed for future food production and its not supposed to be used for residential development,” she said.
McPhail said she believes council’s decision “has hurt the farming community.”
“I think what’s we’ve done is very punitive,” she said over the phone on Tuesday.
“We heard from farmer after farmer who said this was going to hurt their viability, it’s going to hurt the economics of their business because their land is devalued … and I think that’s wrong.”
Richmond first set a limit of 10,700 square feet on ALR homes — houses built on protected farmland — in the spring of 2017.
Council voted in favour of slashing the limit to 5,400 square feet just after being sworn in on Nov. 5, but another motion was put forward with the 4,300-figure shortly after.
Agricultural Advisory Committee had been firm in saying they preferred 10,700 square feet.
“The farmers were irate,” said Loo.
“They were scared, they were upset, they were disappointed. They came out in force last night and they let us know they weren’t happy,” she continued. “Their property values have just gone down.”
Province tables bill on house size
On Nov. 5, the province introduced its own legislation to limit the size of ALR homes. If passed, Bill 52 — or the agricultural land commission amendment — will reduce the maximum allowable size of a house on protected farmland to 5,400 square feet.
That bill needs to go through three readings followed by a vote in order to pass — a process that will continue for months.
The ALR was established in 1973 to protect land with prime agricultural conditions for farming and ranching. It currently protects around 46,000 square kilometres of arable land in B.C.
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