After a marathon meeting that lasted a few hours, Richmond City Council has decided not to reduce the size of so-called “megahomes” built on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
The city has decided to maintain the current maximum size of over 10,000 square feet and will allow secondary homes of 3,200 square feet for farm workers on eight to 25 hectare lots.
Council had tried to make a decision back in March but had to defer the decision following a three-hour meeting where councillors heard from more than 30 speakers.
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But not everyone was happy with the decision. Coun. Harold Steves says he would have rather seen a cap at half that size. He said allowing such large homes attracted more people to do the same.
“When they discovered that farmland was cheap, they started buying farmers and building these huge mansions, which of course increased the prices of farmland, so it is out of reach of a bonafide farmer.”
Roland Hoegler, who owns land in the ALR, disagrees with Steves. He says his land is so small that he cannot make it a viable farm, or get the farm status that he would need.
“You can’t just say every piece of ALR land is sacred,” Hoegler said. “The times have changed.”
Other farmers told council they needed the extra space to house workers and multiple generations of their families.
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“There is a problem but it’s not just Richmond, this is a problem that’s going across the province,” said Agriculture Minster Lana Popham.
Popham said no changes can be made until the revitalization committee consultation is complete.
“I expect their report to come forward with recommendations this summer and after looking at those recommendations I expect to see regulatory or legislative change.”
When asked if knowing changes is coming will entice people to buy up land and get building ahead of time Popham said she doesn’t think so.
Meanwhile, Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver is calling on the province to take “immediate” action to halt farmland speculation.
~With files form Liza Yuzda