The pressure is on for Richmond city council to make a decision on home sizes on the Agricultural Land Reserve next week, after a planning committee meeting ended in a three-three tie vote over the issue.
On Tuesday, councillors voted after a motion was put forward by Coun. Harold Steves and seconded by Mayor Malcolm Brodie to formally restrict home sizes to 5,382 square feet from 10,764. This followed a staff report outlining public feedback on ALR home sizes, which had no specific recommendation, but outlined 12 options for how home sizes could be restricted. By the end, the vote was a tie with planning committee members Steves, Brodie and Coun. Chak Au voting to restrict home sizes and Couns. Bill McNulty, Linda McPhail and Alexa Loo voting against.
“It was one of the most interesting meetings we’ve had in a long time,” Steves said. “We don’t get tie votes very often.”
Steves pointed out that Brodie voting for the additional reduction to home sizes was a change to his previous stance, adding that the mayor now appeared keen to look at provincial guidelines for regulating home sizes on the ALR. In fact, the mayor was the one to second Steves’s motion on the basis that some amendments be made, including one to permit a second house for bonafide farmers and their families.
For Steves, however, this change wasn’t a surprise.
“I expected more people to change their mind because it’s getting pretty bad,” he said.
While Couns. Carol Day and Ken Johnson were both at the meeting, they did not have a vote as they aren’t on the planning committee.
Steves said the tie vote now means the motion goes to city council without a recommendation, but includes the 5,382 limit, the amendment to permit a second home for farming families and an additional staff report on how to eliminate the potential for greenhouses built with concrete floors to damage the land.