The controversial issue of so-called “monster homes” is headed back to Richmond city council.
A council committee is recommending that the maximum size of a home on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) land be held steady at 10,763 square feet, according to Mayor Malcom Brodie.
The committee recommendation comes just over a month after council deferred a decision on reducing allowable house sizes in the ALR, instead asking staff to look into the issue.
“The vast majority of the people on council supported the analysis,” Brodie said.
“There are obviously reasons why one could support a larger support on farmland, but I think the community wants the house size on the farmland to be reduced.”
The motion is set to go to council next Monday, when Brodie said he plans to vote against it.
“I believe that we needed to bring the house size down,” he said.
“I think we should go with the provincial guidelines, which would allow a house of about 5,300 square feet.”
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The committee is also recommending a secondary home for farm workers be permitted without zoning approval, but be held to 3,000 square feet.
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Last year, the City of Richmond capped the size of homes to 10,763 square feet, after some mansions of up to 20,000 square feet were built in the city.
Critics argue that nothing in current provincial rules forces the owner of a property in the ALR to actively farm it, and that people building mega-mansions remain eligible for ALR property tax breaks so long as they sell just $2,500 a year in product from farming.
Earlier this year, a Richmond mega-mansion was caught operating illegally as a high-end hotel. Local residents who complained about the home also brought a petition to council calling for a 5,300-square-foot cap on homes built in the ALR.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Lana Popham says consultation has just wrapped up on what changes, if any, need to be made to protect agricultural land.
“One of the things that was really important to me was to get out there and consult before we out forward any legislative or regulatory changes, because I experienced the previous government doing exactly the opposite and it had unintended consequences,” she said.
Popham said the government will consider recommendations over the summer, and could look at regulatory changes when the legislature returns in the fall.
-With files from Jill Bennett and Catherine Urqhart