MLA, Metro urge province to regulate mansions on farmland
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington has joined Metro Vancouver in calling on the provincial agriculture ministry to regulate the size of homes built on the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
Huntington said region-wide standards are needed to protect the regional agricultural land base and ensure developers can't shop around for the municipalities with the weakest standards.
She added excessively large farm homes within the ALR reduce the amount of land available for agriculture and put development pressure on the price of farmland, discouraging young start-up farmers.
“Sprawling homes are just one of the many abuses taking place on agricultural land in British Columbia and the current patchwork approach by individual municipalities is not enough to address the problem," she said.
Huntington praised Delta for developing a bylaw that restricts house sizes and defines a farm "homeplate" on agricultural properties on which houses must be contained.
They cannot sprawl deeper than 60 metres from the front property line, unless there is on-site migrant worker housing, in which case the limit is 100 metres.
"It was done in concert with officials with the Ministry of Agriculture and is a ready to go, made-in-Delta, as you will, bylaw on the issue," she said.
"The province shouldn't waste any time in assisting Metro Vancouver in engaging with its members municipalities in getting this type of consistent bylaw in place."
Huntington's comments come in response to Metro Vancouver's call to the province to help slow the spread of mansions on urban farmland.
The region is asking the agriculture ministry to introduce standardized rules to control the placement and size of the residential footprint of homes in the ALR.
While Delta and Richmond have local bylaws that impose restrictions, opposition from property owners have prompted other councils such as Pitt Meadows and Surrey to shelve similar efforts.
A staff report warns of growing pressure to develop ALR land by property owners who want large houses and yards who may have little or no interest in actually farming the land.
A house plunked in the middle of a farm parcel with a long driveway and expansive yard "makes farming more difficult if not impossible," the report says.
Allowing such houses on agricultural land may also attract non-farmers.
Once a large estate house is erected, the property becomes prohibitively expensive for many actual farmers.
The new estate home owners may also complain about neighbouring farm smells and sounds, the report suggests, hampering farmers on adjacent plots.
The province previously signaled its willingness to consider regulations, circulating its own discussion paper on potential options.
The limits proposed by Metro Vancouver would cap an ALR farm's residential footprint at 5,000 square metres for properties eight hectares or more or 2,000 square metres for smaller parcels.
That footprint would have to start no further than 60 metres from the road or property line, ensuring residential uses are close to the edge of the property and can't sprawl far into it.
The main farm house, any secondary house and any other residential uses—from sheds and workshops to tennis courts and pools—would have to be within the footprint.
House sizes would be capped at 500-square-metres for the main house on parcels of at least eight hectares (350-square-metres for smaller properties) and 250-square-metres for an additional house for farm staff (200-square-metres for smaller parcels.)
The house size limits are somewhat looser than Delta's but Metro staff argue individual cities would still be free to pass more restrictive bylaws if they choose.
The proliferation of farm estate houses has also been flagged by the region as a concern for Metro's future food security.
—with files from Jeff Nagel