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Temporary worker housing approved for Okanagan orchardists

April 26, 2016 - 6:30 PM


KELOWNA - Despite the objections of neighbours, Kelowna council gave support for a temporary housing application by a local orchardist, who one councillor called 'a bonafide farmer'.

Applicants Sukhwinderjit and Biri Sandher sought a development permit to allow the installation of temporary trailer housing for 60 temporary agricultural workers on the fringes of an orchard at 1610 Swainson Rd.

Coun. Luke Stack noted the almost universal condemnation of the application by immediate neighbours was focused on the appearance of the housing rather than its use as shelter for workers employed in large-scale fruit farming.

GP Sandher Holdings Ltd. plans to bring in 250 temporary workers this season, council heard, to be employed on the 526 acres the company farms throughout the North and Central Okanagan.

The company already has a farm help housing permit for 21 workers at 1240 Latta Rd., a fourplex at 2775 Dunster Rd. as well as room for 48 workers at 1090 McKenzie Rd.

An application last July to house 80 more workers at the McKenzie Road site was turned down by council over concerns of the number of workers and the permanent nature of the dwellings.

Council were much more amenable to the latest application with its smaller numbers and portable housing, and Stack praised the applicant as a serious farmer who seems willing to play by the rules.

“They are doing the real deal out there. I don’t see requests for variances, they are meeting the regulations and there is a desperate need for temporary worker housing,” he said in support of the application.

Coun. Mohini Singh described the decision as difficult, given the opposition of neighbours, but predicted increased clashes between farmers and people living around them.

“If we are serious about protecting farmers, these are the kinds of difficult decisions we have to make,” Singh added.

Coun. Ryan Donn saw the application as a chance to educate people who believe they are buying nothing but peace and tranquility living in orchard country.

“Farming is industrial, it isn’t residential. If you are in the Agricultural Land Reserve, you should anticipate activity that you may not be used to.”

Only Coun. Charlie Hodge voted against the application.

City staff are working with other local governments to develop a comprehensive temporary farm worker housing bylaw.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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