Controversial Richmond Buddhist temple expansion plan pulled

By Alan Campbell, Postmedia News, December 16, 2010

Richmond, Canada -- The contentious plans to expand the Buddhist Lingyen Temple on No. 5 Road have been shelved, for now.

The City of Richmond has asked the temple’s architect to withdraw the application after the city decided this week to launch a comprehensive review of its No. 5 Road Backlands Policy, which allows assembly uses, including religious institutions, to locate on property within the Agricultural Land Reserve in an area along Highway 99.

The city asked that the proposal to expand Lingyen Mountain Temple be withdrawn while the review is completed.

James Cheng Architects, representatives for that project, have agreed and officially withdrew the application on Wednesday.

Richmond first adopted its No. 5 Road Backlands Policy in 1990. The policy allowed for assembly uses on an isolated, narrow strip of farmland, located between No.5 Road and Highway 99. Religious and educational institutions requiring large parcels of land may locate in the area, with the provision that they must actively farm the backlands of their property.

Much of the lands might have sat dormant otherwise, due to agricultural viability challenges.

A review will examine how the policy is working and what improvements may be needed, including appropriate land uses, massing, height and densities, traffic management, servicing implications, sustainability issues and other matters.

The review will complement the Official Community Plan update now underway, which will establish community needs through 2041.

“The No. 5 Road Backlands Policy has been amended a number of times with respect to farming requirements since its initial adoption,” said Joe Erceg, general manager, planning and development for the City of Richmond.

“The latest development application for the area calls for a larger scale of development and greater building heights than were envisioned when the policy was first adopted. It’s appropriate that we review the policy and what our future objectives are for this area.”

Planning staff will develop terms of reference for the review, including community consultation, which will be brought forward to council in the spring of 2011.

The review is expected to be completed in 2012. Any new development applications for the area will be considered once the review is complete.