Most homes being built on Abbotsford farmland exceed new size limits

Most homes being built on Abbotsford farmland exceed new size limits

Five building permits issued for homes bigger than 10,000 square feet

New rules banning mansions in the Agricultural Land Reserve will be felt in Abbotsford, where the majority of new houses built on farmland this year will exceed 7,500 square feet.

On Monday, the province announced it wants to require that anybody wishing to build a house larger than 5,400 square feet on ALR land must show such a building supports farming. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) will also have to sign off on additional homes on ALR land under the proposed legislation, which has not yet become law.

“Mega-homes and lifestyle estates preclude land from being used by agriculture ever again,” Jennifer Dyson, the chair of the ALC, said in a press release. “These large-scale residences for non-farmers impede agriculture, drive speculation and further erode the land base. A farmer will not be able to afford to purchase these properties with the value of just the home in the millions.”

If passed, the new law will dramatically change what kind of homes are built on Abbotsford farmland, an analysis of building permit data by The News shows.

Of the 21 building permits issued for new homes on ALR land in Abbotsford this year, all but six will be larger than 5,400 square feet. Some of the new homes will be double the limit allowed for new houses if the proposed rules become a reality; five building permits were issued this year for homes in excess of 10,000 square feet.

Those projects will be allowed to proceed, and the province says existing homes will be grandfathered in. But new homes on ALR land will have to be, on the whole, dramatically smaller than those currently being built.

Big houses abound around Abbotsford: permits for 125 structures over 5,400 square feet have been issued since the start of 2016. But while the bulk of those homes are built in urban areas, when it comes to the very biggest of the bunch, homebuilders tend to look to farmland.

Of 22 homes larger than 8,000 square feet to start construction over the last three years, 17 were located in the Agricultural Land Reserve. Those include all seven of the city’s new super-mansions, larger than 10,000 square feet.

Dave Sidhu, who recently ran for council and finished ninth and who lives with family in a modest home in the ALR, said the 5,400-square-foot limit could be too low for some extended families.

He said his current home, which houses himself and his parents, is only around 3,000 square feet, but a larger house may be needed when a third generation comes around.

His family has lived on their west Abbotsford property since the ’80s. They once farmed the land, but now lease it to a family friend.

At the same time, such homes don’t need to be 15,000 square feet in size, he said. (Three such homes have been built in Abbotsford over the last decade.)

Homes larger than 5,400 square feet are still allowed under the proposed rules, but they will require the ALC to sign off on such buildings, with applicants needing to show that such a home would support farming.

The new legislation to amend the ALC act would also crack down on the dumping of damaging fill on farmland, and remove the two-zone system implemented by the BC Liberals.

It wouldn’t, notably, address some of the concerns raised by the City of Abbotsford in a letter to the province earlier this year.

In that letter, the city asked the province for help enforcing ALR rules and to make it more difficult for hobby farm estate owners to qualify for property tax breaks. The city has halted its extensive AgRefresh process while waiting to see how the province would follow through on its promise to “revitalize” the ALR.

The new legislation addresses some of the questions that prompted that pause, but leaves others open.

Agriculture minister Lana Popham said the legislation won’t likely be the end of changes.

“I anticipate we’ll have more changes coming that focus on strengthening governance and decision-making for the ALC,” she said in a statement emailed to The News.

RELATED: Abbotsford asks for help enforcing ALR rules

RELATED: Big homes, low property taxes affecting farming in Abbotsford: report


@ty_olsen
tolsen@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A Chilliwack Search and Rescue truck heads down Vedder Road towards Cultus Lake to assist a dirtbiker with a broken leg. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Emergency crews, SAR busy with three separate outdoor recreation incidents in Chilliwack area

Calls in 1 afternoon include ATV collision, parachuter who fell from tree, dirtbiker with broken leg

Chilliwack’s historic Royal Hotel is offering COVID-style wedding packages for two weeks in June. (Facebook/ Royal Hotel Chilliwack)
Chilliwack hotel offers pop-up, COVID-style weddings for 2 weeks this June

‘Weddings can still happen, albeit in a different fashion,’ says Laura Reid of Royal Hotel

Nick Warmerdam and his dog Diesel are inviting locals to check out the Lakeland Farm U-pick Flower Farm this spring. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
VIDEO & SLIDESHOW: Abbotsford’s Lakeland Flowers opens for spring

Tulip farm attraction opened on April 14, open to the public daily seven days a week

A man holds a child while speaking with RCMP following an erratic driving incident on Highway 1 in Chilliwack on Friday, April 16, 2021. The child and a woman (but not this man) were in this Jeep Grand Cherokee which hit a barrier and a parked car on Highway 1 and continued driving. The vehicle finally exited the highway at Yale Road West and came to a stop. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Video captures woman driving erratically with child after hitting barrier, car on Hwy 1 in Chilliwack

Smoke seen coming from SUV as it continues to travel eastbound of shoulder of highway

Video image
UPDATE: Bridge traffic moving normally after high-velocity crash involving logging truck

Northbound crash occurred at approximately 2 p.m., involves 6 vehicles, north lanes shut down

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read