Last year, city staff in Richmond, B.C., cancelled a permit application for a home that was to be built on farmland.

The plans called for a 41,000 square-foot floor area and 21 bedrooms. 

Richmond city spokesperson Ted Townsend says applications like that one sounded alarm bells for the city. 

"It's gone from, you know, some people that were building what I would call kind of the country manor to some pretty large scale developments that are being proposed," he said.

​"The size and scale of these houses begins to eat into the footprint of the property which is within the Agricultural Land Reserve and is intended to be used for farmland, not so much residential."

City statistics show in 2010, the average house size in a building permit application was 8,557 sq. ft. By 2015, that had climbed to 12,583 sq. ft.

To gauge community feeling on the issue, Richmond is hosting an open house on Thursday as well as asking for feedback through an online survey. 

The city will be asking people about maximums for house size, setback from the road and non-farm accessory buildings.

Townsend says at this stage, the city just wants to see what sorts of standards could be appropriate. 

"For this phase of the process we're not putting out any proposal and asking people to say yes or no to those proposals," he said. "We're looking more to get a sense of where people think we should be going on this issue."

Richmond house size applications

Richmond city statistics show in 2010, the average house size on a building permit application in the city's ALR was 8,557 sq. ft. In 2015, that figure had climbed to 12,583 sq. ft. (City of Richmond)

'No shortage of opinion'

This is not the first time Richmond has tackled the issue.

Townsend says the city "went down this path in 2011," but met with strong opposition. 

He says there are many people who believe protecting farmland should be the first priority and who want significant limits imposed, but there are others who see the situation differently.

For example, he says, many in the farming community argue a family effort is required to be successful in the industry these days. 

"And that means extended family. And that means you need to have a larger house so that the extended family can live together on the property," he said. 

Townsend says there are some strongly held opinions on all sides of the issue, and he anticipates hearing from those voices throughout this process. 

"There's certainly no shortage of opinion on this issue.... We certainly expect it to be a lively debate."

The deadline to complete the online survey is March 12.