"THE CITY CANNOT TELL A FARMER HOW TO FARM HIS OR HER LAND."
KELOWNA – A Kelowna farmer is in some trouble with the Agricultural Land Commission for adding untested dirt to his water-logged horse pasture.
The 11 acre property is located in the South Pandosy area and is within the Agricultural Land Reserve and the Mission Creek flood plain.
According to a report prepared by the city manager, the owners brought in 1192 cubic metres of mineral soil — soil lacking in organic material — and added it to the land in an attempt to improve drainage and prevent foot rot in their horses. It is currently being farmed for hay and grazing pasture.
A neighbour alerted the city to the activity in the fall of 2013 citing potential drainage concerns that could affect their property however a professional agrologist hired by the landowner told councillors Monday that drainage will actually be improved.
“I’ve been an agrologist for a long time,” Bob Holtby said. “I had a lab analysis conducted on the parent material and the fill material and found that the fill material will enhance the value of the soil because it will provide more sand, which will break up the ground for better permeability."
“I’m frankly quite disappointed that your staff does not endorse this. The placement of fill… is considered under the Right to Farm Act as a normal farm practice. The City cannot tell a farmer how to farm his or her land.”
Among the concerns staff have are that a City of Kelowna Soil Permit was not obtained for the fill placement, the imported soil is from an unknown construction site and is of little organic content, the existing native topsoil has been covered and fertility testing was not conducted by a Ministry of the Environment agrologist.
“Staff are typically supportive of soil enhancement that result in net benefit to agriculture, however staff have reviewed the information provided by the applicant team and are unable to support this application,” Environment manager Todd Cashin said.
The Commission recommend a drainage and groundwater impact assessment be completed and if found to be suitable the fill be placed under the native topsoil at the owner's expense.
Holtby said that is not a reasonable request because the soil has already been spread and the Commission studies will likely not happen until the spring of 2015. By that time, he said, the soils will have already intermingled and new grass grown through.
“It is my understanding the farmer thought the contractor who brought the fill had the permit and had no intention of evading the regulations. This is why he’s made the application… to get the permit in place in spite of the fact I’m not sure he even needs a permit in the first place given that it’s a normal farm practice.”
Coun. Gail Given said the issue is not about paperwork but about going through the proper channels so all possible consequences can be considered.
“The challenge for me is when you don’t go in the right order, if the ALC has some specific requirements around soil testing… they would have time to go through that. After the fact we can’t know what was there before.”
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