Chilliwack city council is moving to prevent large residential homes from using up valuable agricultural land in the city.
It is considering a bylaw revision that would regulate the footprint and location of homes on agricultural property.
Called the Farm Home Plate Bylaw, the new rules reflect growing pressure on agricultural land as people move from the crowded urban core to areas like Chilliwack, where land is less expensive and more available.
“We stand at risk of losing more agricultural land to big homes that are glorified hobby farms,” said Councilor Chris Kloot.
The issue was flagged as a priority during a recent strategic planning meeting of the city’s agricultural advisory committee. It echoes earlier concerns contained in the Chilliwack’s Agricultural Area Plan about protecting the city’s agricultural land base.
The concern is not new. Other city’s within the Lower Mainland have adopted similar bylaws to protect their farmland.
The regulations are aimed at deterring homes that are set well back from the road, with large driveways that meander through the heart of a property. Or homes with large lawns and extensive landscaping that use up otherwise arable farmland.
“Smaller agricultural parcels are especially affected by large setbacks,” a city staff report says, “as a large portion of land is taken by residential home plate uses, including principle and secondary dwellings, tennis courts, swimming pools, garages, and landscaped gardens. In some cases, houses are set back as far as 150 meters to over 400 meters from the road, with residential home plates ranging from two to three acres in size.”
The city is looking at a series of options that would limit the size and location of the farm home plate – measures that would govern setbacks, and establish maximum coverages (2,000 square meters for a principal residence, for example).
There would be some flexibility, said councillor Sam Waddington. Property owners would be able to apply for a variance, just like they can under current zoning bylaws.
Councillor Kloot said the measures are needed and necessary. “I think it’s important that we take a stand to protect our agricultural land for future generations,” he said.
But it is important the city also move cautiously. “Go slow, but do it right.”
The City is seeking public input on the bylaw revision.
The issue will be raised at a series of rural community open houses hosted by the rural engagement advisory committee. They will be held in Yarrow on Oct. 13, Ryder Lake Oct. 15, Rosedale Oct. 27 and Greendale Oct. 29.
The public is also invited to take part in an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/farmhomeplate.