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More applications for ‘mega-homes’
A flurry of requests to construct large houses on farmland has the City of Pitt Meadows revisiting a plan to restrict the size of homes in the provincially protected agricultural reserve.
Staff presented a report to council Tuesday to apprise members about several building permit applications for houses that could easily be turned into mini apartments.
“The issue, as stated in the report, is that staff have misgivings that the homes will not be single-family residences, which is a contravention of our zoning bylaw and [agricultural land commission] regulations,” said the city’s director of operations Kim Grout.
She stressed that the city wasn’t revisiting the “farm home plate” bylaw, which seeks to clusters residential uses on properties, to preserve agricultural land and encourage farming.
The bylaw, initially proposed in 2008, drew vocal opposition and was turfed by council.
Since then, however, Surrey has adopted an amendment to its zoning bylaw, restricting houses and accessory buildings and uses on provincially protected agricultural land to a 2,000-square-metre footprint.
Maple Ridge is also in the process of drafting zoning bylaw regulations in order to restrict residential uses in agricultural zones.
The farm home plate concept is also supported by Metro Vancouver.
Grout highlighted three recent applications to the city in her report. The first example is an addition to an existing 211-square-metre (2,271 sq. ft.) one-storey house on a 2.7 hectare parcel.
The addition being proposed is two storeys high and would be 334.32 square metres (3,599 sq. ft.), increasing the size of the house to 545 square metres (5,866 sq. ft.).
Another application received by the city pitches a new 837 square metre (9,009 sq. ft.) two-storey house on a 12-hectare lot.
The concern with each building permit application, and several other similar ones, is not with the location of the house, but the size and fact that the homes may be divided into two or more dwelling units, Grout noted.
Mayor Deb Walters assured residents that the city will not be revisiting the farm home plate bylaw, but acknowledged that there is a need to discourage the construction of mega-homes on cheaper and readily available agricultural property.
A staff report to council in 2008 noted the city has seen a trend toward “mega-houses” and estate homes in the past 10 years.
According to the report, the average size of house in the agricultural area increased from 3,442 sq. ft. in 1997 to 5,509 sq. ft. in 2007.
Walters said council will be asking staff to investigate whether there are other ways to address the issue by way of covenants and also consider how other municipalities have addressed the issue.
“We are just asking staff to find out is there a way to stop this from becoming small apartments down the road. Can we put restrictions or covenants on them or those types of things?,” Walters explained.
Coun. Janis Elkerton, however, wants council to stop meddling with private property.
“I am firmly against the farm home plate,” said Elkerton, who lives on an agricultural lot on the north side of Lougheed Highway.
“Covenants can wreck havoc with your insurance.”
If you limit the size of a home, it might force families who may want to live together to split up, she noted.
“In this day and age, kids are staying longer at home. It’s trying to find a balance.”
Elkerton, who leases nine acres of her property to a farmer who grows hay, said all the implications of a bylaw must be investigated before anything is considered.