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Council stands firm on Delta's farm home plate rules

Delta’s regulations include lots in the A1 Zone that are less than 8 hectares (20 acres) having a farm home plate at a certain distance from a dedicated or constructed road to minimize encroachment into the farmland.
Planning staff noted that a 150 per cent increase in the permitted home plate depth could set an ‘undesirable precedent.’

Citing the need to protect agricultural lands, Delta council agreed to not approve an application to alter a farm home plate.

Council on Monday (Feb. 6) voted in favour of a staff recommendation to deny a request by the owners of a property at 3400 River Road West for a variance to increase the maximum depth of the property’s farm home plate from a dedicated or constructed street.

This one-hectare (three-acre) site is located within the Agricultural Land Reserve and is used for equestrian activities. The site currently contains a 1,109-square-foot farmhouse located at the front of the property.

This house is to be demolished and replaced with a new 2,992-square-foot house, which the owners propose to situate further away from the roadway. Two barns located behind the existing farmhouse would be retained.

The owners requested a variance to the maximum farm home plate depth requirements to allow the new house to be situated outside the established farm home plate near the road.

Staff noted they do not support the variance as it would allow residential use to unnecessarily infringe upon the existing productive agricultural area of the property and would be inconsistent with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food's bylaw standards.

In 2006, Delta with the blessing of the province, enacted regulations limiting house sizes and defining a farm “home plate” on agricultural properties.

Mayor George Harvie agreed with staff, describing Delta’s agricultural land as potentially becoming under “threat” if approval is given to alter home plates away from property frontages.

Community planning director Marcy Sangret said Delta was the first municipality in Metro Vancouver to regulate farmhouse houses as well as farm home plates, adding other municipalities looked to Delta “with envy” as they began seeing large homes built within their agricultural lands.

She told council the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) had no such regulation at the time, but has since followed by establishing regulations on maximum primary farmhouse sizes as well as additional dwellings.

Since Delta established its farm home plate regulations, there have been only a few instances in which council granted variances, she added.

Saying the applicant “is trying to be respectful of the land”, Coun. Alicia Guichon was the only council member to support the application, noting the owners still want to have maximum use of the land.

While not supporting expanding the home plate depth, the planning department said it does support the application for a development variance permit for the property to decrease the interior side setback requirements for a new farmhouse.

The planning department also said in addition to the non-adhering residential use application, the applicant had also applied for an ALC soil and fill use application.

In January 2022, the owners placed approximately 8,829-cubic-feet of fill on the property to facilitate future construction of the new farmhouse.

However, the owners at the time had not applied for a soil deposit permit from Delta and a stop work order was issued to stop additional fill from being added.