November 17, 2015 - 11:30 AM
KELOWNA - The owners of a former strawberry patch looking for support in removing their property from the Agricultural Land Reserve saw the request die on the vine Monday with council split down the middle.
The trigger for the lengthy debate was application to the Agricultural Land Commission by Gabriel and Linda Coupal to pull their 6.15 acres near Munson Road and Benvouvlin Road from the reserve. They were seeking council's support for the application.
The couple maintain that farming the plot of land — it was last operated as u-pick strawberry farm — has become next to impossible because of urbanization, which has left the property bordered by a private school and a utility company, and subject to restrictions on farming practices such as spraying.
City staff recommended against supporting the application but Coun. Charlie Hodge moved an alternate recommendation to have council support it.
Hodge railed against decisions made by previous councils that have contributed to the the obstacles the couple now face in farming the land and said it was time to make it right.
“It’s a rare day I would speak to have something removed from the (reserve). They have farmed it and their parents before them. They have made a genuine effort to farm this land,” Hodge said. "The point made by the applicant is it fair or reasonable to make people stay in the (reserve) and farm under those conditions. I say it is not fair or reasonable.”
However, Coun. Luke Stack said he recognized the couple’s challenges but was just as adamant the application be rejected based on principles enshrined in Kelowna’s official community plan.
“This isn’t about one small piece of land. The issue will be that if in fact you accept the argument that if neigbhours don’t behave themselves and make it harder to farm, you can take your land out of the reserve.”
Stack said removing the land from the reserve would likely trigger a rezoning application and development by the applicants, further removing any chance of restoring the surrounding properties to working farms.
The subsequent vote had council evenly split on the alternate recommendation. A tie vote means it fails.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015