Farmland Housing Regulations

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Richmond City Council adopted a number of bylaw amendments in 2017 to better preserve land for agriculture. The bylaws provide new regulations for residential development on the City's agricultural land. As part of a 6-month review on those bylaw amendments, Council reviewed options to further limit house size (floor area), farm home plate, and to consider a maximum house footprint limit on agricultural properties of 0.2 ha (0.5 ac.) or larger. The City wants to hear from you before Council considers these options. The City also wants to hear from you on what other levels of government can do to encourage farming activity and reduce speculation of farmland.

Farm Home Plate

The term 'farm home plate' means the portion of the lot including the principal dwelling unit, any residential accessory buildings or residential accessory structures, including the driveway, decorative lawns and landscaping, artificial ponds and sewerage septic tanks, in one contiguous area. Under the current City regulations, the septic field is not included in the farm home plate area. The figure below illustrates a typical farm home plate. Note: Images can be viewed in a larger format in the Document Library on this page.

Farm Home Plate

February alr housing regulations display

The maximum area of a farm home plate depends upon the size of the lot. The City's farm home plate regulation is a made-in-Richmond approach that reflects the high number of small agricultural lots, and ensures that every agricultural lot has an area that can be farmed for years to come. The City's regulation for farm home plate has four lot area categories as follows:

Ag house size table 1
1. What would you prefer for the maximum area of the farm home plate?

Septic Field Location

Under the City's current regulations, the septic field area does not have to be located within the farm home plate area (only the septic tanks). Notes:

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture's Guidelines do not specify the location of the septic field or tanks.
  2. The septic field area cannot be used for soil based crops. Cultivating crops of any kind on the septic field is not an acceptable practice as the roots would compromise the pipes and septic system.
  3. The septic field area cannot be used for recreational purposes as this may also compromise the integrity of the system.

2. Do you think the entire septic system, including the septic field, should be within the City's farm home plate area?

House Footprint

City Council directed that staff review if it is technically possible to include the septic field area within a reduced farm home plate area, and review a series of house size options. In order to require the septic field within the reduced farm home plate, the footprint of the house would have to be regulated to ensure that all aspects of the residential improvements fit within the farm home plate (e.g., house, garage, septic field, driveway, recreational lawn). This regulation would be known as the 'house footprint' which would regulate the maximum amount of land that the ground floor of the house can occupy. Notes:

  1. The Ministry of Agriculture's Guidelines do not suggest a maximum house footprint regulation.
  2. The house footprint should not be confused with the house floor area, as the house floor area includes all storeys of a house. Unless the house is one-storey, the house floor area would generally always be greater than the house footprint.

3. Would you support a new regulation to limit the maximum house footprint?

House Height

One way to accommodate the maximum floor area for a house is to restrict the house footprint but distribute the floor area in 2 or 3 stories. A sample elevation of a 2 1/2 storey house and a full 3-storey house is illustrated below for reference purposes.

2 1/2 Storey House Example House Footprint = 320 m2 (3,440 ft2) House Floor area = Approx. 790 m2 (8,500 m2)

Ag 2 5 storey house

3 Storey House Example House Footprint = 264 m2 (2,840 ft2) House Floor Area = Approx. 790 m2 (8,500 ft2)

Ag 3 storey house

Note: Currently the maximum height of a house in the AG1 (Agriculture) zone is 10.5 m (34 ft.) and can include a maximum of 2 1/2 storeys.

4. Would you be supportive of increasing the maximum house height from 2 1/2 storeys to 3 storeys provided the maximum house footprint is reduced?

House Size

For AG1 (Agriculture) zoned properties, the maximum house size is regulated by a floor area ratio (FAR) similar to what is used in the City's single detached (RS) zones. However, the AG1 (Agriculture) zone establishes absolute maximum house size limits as shown below:

Ag table 2

Notes:

  1. In calculating the house size under the City's AG1 (Agriculture) zone, the house, garage floor area and all residential accessory buildings such as sheds, detached garages or workshops are included.
  2. The Ministry of Agriculture's Guidelines suggest a maximum house size of 500 m2 (5,382 ft2) regardless of lot area.

5. Do you think the maximum house size in the City's AG1 (Agriculture) zone should be reduced for properties that are 0.2 ha (0.5 ac.) or larger?
6. If you answered yes to question 5, which of the following house sizes (total floor area, including garage) do you think would be an appropriate maximum house size limit in the City's AG1 (Agriculture) zone for properties that are 0.2 ha (0.5 ac.) or larger?

Regulations to Encourage Farming

Protecting farmland and encouraging its viability to be farmed is considered a high priority by both Council and the Province. The protection and use of farmland is regulated by different levels of government (e.g., local, provincial and federal). The Provincial Agricultural Land Commission, in cooperation with local government, regulates and administers the use of land that is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Locally, the City of Richmond has the ability to control the siting and massing of residential and agricultural buildings and structures. The City also collects property taxes based on the assessment value and classification provided by the BC Assessment Authority. Farm classifications are given to properties that are farmed and meet BC Assessment's farming requirements which are then regulated by the Province. The Province also has the ability to set other taxes such as the Property Transfer Tax and the Foreign Buyers Tax (note: the Foreign Buyers Tax does not currently apply to agricultural land). These taxes can be used to discourage speculation of farmland for non-farming purposes.

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