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Farm first, tourism later

View of the farmland from Byrns Road.
September 24, 2013 - 8:30 AM

KELOWNA – Land owners on Cooper Road will have to fill their fruit baskets if they want to convert farmland into an RV park.

Their request to re-zone agricultural land in the South Pandosy area to create an agritourism destination didn't get far with city council yesterday.

The proposal calls for a 10-unit mobile home park on protected farm land, requiring a special development permit. While Kelowna is known for innovative farm attractions that boost the profitability of farming, city councillors were concerned the proposal puts agriculture second.

Less than three acres out of ten is used for agriculture and the owner is inexperienced in farming. Coun. Gail Given withheld her support in a near unanimous decision not to forward the application to public hearing.

“The agriculture just isn't established at this time - we have to see the “agri” part first,” she said.

Mayor Walter Gray also noted that for a legitimate agritourism business, “I guess you need the farm first.”

Owners Brian and Linda Pahl recently bought the property but say they're not making enough money from it. Adding the RV park would to make it more lucrative for their children's takeover of the business, they say.

It made economic sense to Coun. Andre Blanleil, who supported the project, describing the site at Cooper and Benvoulin Road as “a very high profile corner.” To make it a productive farm would take thousands of dollars, he said.

“There's no money in it... I wouldn't ask my kids to come back and farm the land.”

Coun. Gerry Zimmermann disagreed.

“I find it hard to accept it can't be farmed viably,” he said, considering other successful farms in the surrounding area.

The land once belonging to his own family over 100 years ago, Coun. Robert Hobson said the site has plenty of potential to be productive.

That wasn't the only stumbling block for the proposal.

Coun. Luke Stack expressed skepticism about building RV parks on agricultural land, not keen to “continue to piecemeal it off to RV sites.” Mobile home parks haven't proven to blend well with agricultural activity, Stack said, with tenants often complaining about the environmental impacts of sprays and pesticides.

“We'll have nothing but a huge conflict,” he said.

The Pahls have another two seasons to turn the site into a productive, working farm before the City can reconsider their proposal.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at jwhittet@infotelnews.ca or call (250)718-0428.

 

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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