Sandy James Planner | Published by Price Tags
Trying to Save the Best Farmland in Canada from Richmond City Council
City Planner/Place Shaker, author, and co-editor of Price Tags, Sandy James Planner is passionate about Green Streets and Walkability, a TEDx Speaker, Director of Walk Metro Vancouver, past chair of International Walk21 Vancouver Conference, and Master Gardener.
It is very hard to believe that we still need to be reminded about the importance of food security and ensuring that our agricultural land, which in Metro Vancouver is the finest arable land in Canada, is protected for future generations.
Price Tags Vancouver has been tracking the unbelievable story of the City of Richmond Mayor and Council allowing mansions of over 10,783 square feet in size to be built on agricultural land that is over one half-acre in size. These “farms” are being bought at an agricultural land price as they are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, then redeveloped with large mansions and then quickly turn into multi-million dollar gated estates, exempt from the foreign buyer’s tax (they are on agricultural land) with a large land lift as these countrified estates demand top dollar for offshore buyers. These lands will never return to agricultural use and are now economically out of the reach of farming buyers.
The City of Richmond has forgotten its farming past by dithering and not making the responsible decision to limit houses on farmland to 5,382 square feet, still a remarkably large size. Arable land is being squandered for future generations by short-sighted developer profit, most of it in offshore holdings.
Finally Metro Vancouver has stepped in and they have drafted a set of guidelines subject to comment and approval for farmland. They have asked the Province to bring in legislation to limit house size and to discourage the use of agricultural land for other purposes. Metro Vancouver has also recommended reforming the farm property tax policy so that ‘non-farm’ or residential estates and commercial enterprises on the Agricultural Land Reserve pay the same taxes as in urban areas.
Simon Fraser University is hosting a City Conversation with Councillor Harold Steves, a founder of the Agricultural Land Commission, and Jack Trovato, community activist. If you have not heard Harold Steves speak, it is well worth attending to hear from this Richmond City Councillor and farmer whose family still works the land. His family had the first seed company in British Columbia, and the town of Steveston was named after his forebears. He and Jack Trovato will put in context the importance of saving the best soils in Canada for future generations, and outline how farming can still be viable.
Some of our country’s most productive soil lies in the delta of the Fraser River. The “Class 1” soils found here cover only half a percent of all land across Canada. As climate changes, this land will become even more valuable for growing our food. But current policies allow them to be built over, and with low tax rates because they’re ostensibly for farming. This land is increasingly being used to build “farmer’s houses” as large as 24,000 sq. ft., and there are reports that some of these houses have been sites of illegal activity.
To start the conversation, we’re honoured to have Councillor Harold Steves, a founder of the Agricultural Land Commission, and Jack Trovato, community activist. Then it’s your turn to ask questions, offer your opinions, and make observations. It’s a conversation! Feel free to bring your lunch.
THIS SFU CITY CONVERSATION IS A PRESENTATION OF SFU PUBLIC SQUARE, SPONSORED BY SFU VANCOUVER AND SFU’S CITY PROGRAM.
April 19, 2018 | 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre
515 West Hastings St., Vancouver
Can’t make the event? Watch the livestream and join the dialogue at #CityConv
This article was originally published on Price Tags on April 10, 2018.