October 21, 2013 - 4:20 PM
KELOWNA – A Kelowna farming family is a step closer to building a second home on protected land, though they still need approval from the Agricultural Land Commission.
The city councillors voted unanimously in favour of removing the 2,000 square feet from the Agricultural Land Reserve located at Benvoulin Road.
Vince Curatolo and his daughter Juhlie Curatolo appeared before city council at its regular meeting Monday. They own Pure Basil Enterprises, a company that grows and sells basil to restaurant suppliers and specialty retailers. The family has been farming on the property for 20 years, and already have a house at another address.
They have plans to expand their operation by adding greenhouses and a farm gate retail operation.
The family wants to build a second home so they can all live on the farm where they grow, produce and package their products.
“We want to amalgamate all these things into one place on our 16 acres,” Vince Curatolo told city council.
While council supports value-added agriculture operations in the city, some questioned why they needed to build a home on land protected in the reserve.
“We don’t just grow a product and ship it to a co-op,” Juhlie Curatolo said. “We need to be there 24 hours a day. If you’re not there and something goes wrong you lose your product. You lose your inventory. You lose everything.”
The family also argued that the land in question is not top-of-the-line farmland. It’s not fertile.
City staff expressed a concern about the precedent that would be set by allowing a second home on agricultural land. It could be rented out, something that has become problematic for bylaw enforcement on other agricultural land recently.
“That’s the number one issue,” said Todd Cashin with the planning department.
City staff also recommended that they park a modular home on the property, something the Agricultural Land Commission would be fine with. The reasoning is the home could be moved if the land was ever used for farming again.
But the Curatolos had done their homework and argued that would be more expensive then building a house on the property.
“I don’t see a lot of difference between modular and a built home,” Coun. Andre Blanleil said. “If you’re not building a huge house and your putting it in the right location, you’re doing the right thing.”
Coun. Gail Given says it would be an odd application not to support.
“Farmers producing a value added product is where we want to go," says Given. "These folks are growing the opportunity for farm profitability.”
Even with the support of city council, pulling the land in question out of the land reserve is not a done deal. The application is off to the Agricultural Land Commission for a final decision.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013