British Columbia

'The time has come,' City of Richmond puts halt on mega homes on farmland

Richmond city council placed temporary freeze on building permit applications for houses on farmland, after an increase in applications.

Richmond city council placed temporary freeze on building permit applications for houses on farmland

Until now, Richmond was one of the few Lower Mainland municipalities not to have a size restriction on farm homes. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Richmond city councillors addressed a longstanding city issue on Monday, voting eight to one in favour of a moratorium on building permit applications for houses on Agricultural Land Reserve. 

"The time has come. Clearly, there needs to be some kind of restrictions with the permit applications increasing in the last couple of months," said Mayor Malcom Brodie. 

Since 2017, there have been 26 building permit applications. Sixty-five per cent of them were for houses of more than 10,000 square feet. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Recently, the city rejected a building permit for a 40,000 square-foot home that would fit 21 bedrooms. Out of the 26 building applications that the city received since the start of 2017, 65 per cent of those were for homes over 10,000 square-feet. 

"We are looking at our farm land being used by huge mansions that have absolutely no relationship to agriculture what so ever and we're losing the ability to feed ourselves in an era of climate change," said Coun. Harold Steves. 

Councillors hope to make more land available for farming by restricting the size and location of newly-built houses.

Some Richmond city councillors fears that gigantic houses like this one are taking up land that could have been used for farming. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

Coun. Alexa Loo, the lone dissenting councillor, called the decision "heavy-handed."

"If someone is already a farmer and you keep limiting how they're going to live, who they can live with and you keep limiting everything they do, why would they want to keep farming?" she said. 

ALR land owners have seven days to submit their building permit application under the old bylaws. A new proposed bylaw will be drafted by city staff and presented to council before the end of April. 

The neighbours of this house say it has sat empty for nearly nine years. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

"We've always allowed you to build a house, but suddenly we aren't going to let you, and furthermore, we're not even going to give you any grace period to wrap your head around it. Make a decision, or move out. Instead we are hamstringing you and tying you to the land. In my mind, it's almost communist," said Loo.

Coun. Carol Day says a group of ALR land owners plan to challenge the moratorium. 

Coun. Alexa Loo opposed the 'heavy-handed' decision, saying land owners have a right to sell or build. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)