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Richmond, B.C. votes for smaller homes on ALR

Richmond, B.C. votes for smaller homes on ALR

Homes built on the protected land can’t exceed 4,300 square feet

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

A British Columbia community is taking further steps to limit residential development on 4.6 million acres of protected farmland.

On Tuesday, the City of Richmond voted to limit any homes situated on the Agricultural Land Reserve to 4,300 square feet (399 square metres).

That size is 1,100-square-feet (102 square metres) smaller than the limits included in Bill 52. Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham introduced the bill in November to help ensure farmland remains available for food production.

If her bill passes, any homes built on the ALR would be limited to 5,400 square feet (501 square metres) in size.

Farmland protection advocates view Richmond’s decision as win for the ag industry.

“It’s a huge victory because it’s setting the example for other municipalities to do the same thing and say that farmland isn’t for speculative development,” Laura Gillanders, spokesperson with Richmond FarmWatch, told Farms.com.

Richmond FarmWatch’s goal is to keep farmland prices affordable by protecting the land from mansions and non-farm activities.

But some producers are concerned that Minister Popham’s size suggestions are too small to accommodate growing families.

Kevin Buttar, a blueberry grower from Cloverdale, B.C., has plans for a 10,000-square-foot home for his wife and infant son, his parents, grandparents and his brother. The home would also have enough space for two other kids Buttar and his wife hope to have.

The proposed provincial regulations mean he would only be allowed to build a house about half the size.

“It’s just taking your dreams away,” Buttar said to the North Delta Reporter. “Growing up … your dad’s going ‘Don’t worry man, you’re going to get the house you want. You’re going to get your room.’ And it just gives you that little joy.”

Gillanders is empathetic for farmers like Buttar. But the real issue isn’t home size, it’s receiving fair property value, she said.

“I recognize a lot of the real farmers don’t like these limits,” she said. “The argument has always been they need these large houses for growing families, and I think that’s just been a red herring the whole time.

“But it really comes down to equity. They’re afraid if they can’t sell the farm to a speculator or developer that they won’t get top dollar when they retire. And keeping prices more in line with (regular-sized homes) is essential to keeping farmland accessible for farmers.”


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