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Kelowna family walks into farmland furor over RV park application

Evan Lintell, left, and her son Tyler in the barn they hope will be part of their agri-tourism RV park.
February 06, 2016 - 1:00 PM

PUBLIC HEARING WILL DECIDE IF 10-PAD RV PARK CAN GO AHEAD

KELOWNA - When Tyler Linttell first imagined a small RV park on his family’s small farm, he never imagined he would be walking smack dab into controversy.

“I knew there were rules but I thought it would be routine, you know,” Tyler says, of his plans to install 10 RV pads on the Linttell’s 14-acre hobby farm on KLO Road.

His plans didn’t stop with RVs. Tyler knew he would not be allowed to proceed unless he added a significant agricultural component — right now it’s a hayfield — as prescribed by the rules of the Agricultural Land Commission and the city’s own zoning bylaws.

So the young man did just that, fleshing out what started as an RV park into a proposal for full-fledged agri-tourism operation with plans for a small chicken farm, a bee yard and a vegetable garden with farmgate sales.

Tyler and his mother Eva put together a rezoning application, working with city staff to advance their plan, knocking on doors in the neighbourhoods around them, gauging support or resistance.

“Just about everybody around here supports us,” Eva says. “They love the idea of being able to buy fresh produce just down the road.”

Instead, the Linttell’s ran into resistance from Kelowna city councillors during their request for a zoning amendment to allow the RV park on land zone for agriculture. City staff also recommended against its support.

It probably didn’t help that council had just the week before, sat through an agricultural workshop, hearing from staff of the many ways agricultural land — and farming — is under attack.

Improperly operated RV parks on farm land is one of them, but the city is also investigating companies illegally doing business on the much cheaper farm land and the practice of tax avoidance — essentially plunking a mansion on a piece of farm land and producing just enough of whatever crop to justify farm status and substantially reduce property taxes.

It could have been routine but with councillors freshly atuned to the issue, the Linttell’s rezoning application sparked a two-hour back-and-forth debate ending in a rough split.

Some argued for the Linttells and their well-thought out plan — even the councillors that voted against it praised its thoroughness and their youthful applicant’s entrepreneurial spirit.

But the naysayers wanted the farming part done upfront, already established, before giving the nod to the RV park, which is what the rules call for.

Council eventually voted in a 5-4 split, giving it preliminary approval and narrowly advancing the Lintell’s application to a public hearing, scheduled for Feb. 17.

Tyler is confident of continued council support, despite the mercurial nature of a public hearing.

“This is a solid plan and I think it should be judged on its own merits, not lumped in with bad the operators. Right now, the land is producing nothing,” he says.

Unlike a council meeting, where debate is confined to the politicians, public hearings allow anyone who has an opinion on the project to express it — and they often do, in no uncertain terms, which can often change a councillor’s mind.

His mother’s fear is people could show up in numbers to object to the plan, when they haven't actually seen it.

“I don’t know if I like the idea that anyone can come speak against this… when they don’t live even near here,” Eva adds. “But I guess that’s the way it works

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at jmcdonald@infonews.ca or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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