KELOWNA - Just a couple of years ago, Better Earth Garden Centre and the land behind it was a nightmare for the City of Kelowna and its goal of preserving agricultural land.
The prime farm land on KLO Road, owned by a man out of Enderby, was fast disappearing, chopped up into smaller parcels and leased out to a couple of landscape construction companies as well as Better Earth.
“They were storing construction materials, there was soil being trucked off the site, big berms had been built, you name it,” rural planning manager Todd Cashin says.
All that gained the property a place on the list of the worst abusers of agricultural land in the Benvoulin corridor when the agricultural enforcement program began in late 2014.
Bylaw and planning staff had identified 13 of the worst offenders, largely landscaping and construction companies and began a coordinated campaign seeking compliance with the agricultural zoning bylaw and the policies of the Agricultural Land Commission.
Cashin says a couple of land-owners on the list right away dug in their heels and are even now facing court action from the city and the provincial government.
“We try to be straight up with them right off the bat, this is what we’d like you to do. Some flip us the finger right away. Most of them end up in court,” he says."
It was hard at first to get the attention of the owner of the Better Earth site, Cashin says, but a couple of stop work orders did the trick. “He was a tough nut to crack,” Cashin adds.
One of the landscape construction companies was sent packing and then the owners of Better Earth signed a lease for the entire site. More importantly, they began working with Cashin and staff to move toward compliance with non-farm use regulations.
“They were just great people to deal with and you could tell they meant what they said,” Cashin adds.
To that end, planning staff earlier this week agreed to a request by the company to support a non-farm use application to the land commission, in this case, the sale and storage of landscaping materials.
It will do so under a three-year temporary use permit, Cashin says, that puts the onus on them to continue compliance with the regulations.
“They’ve done a good job so far but at the end of three years, we find they have moved away from compliance or we’re getting lots of complaints, then we can pull their permit,” Cashin says.
“It gives us the hammer. It’s a really great way to keep people honest.”
Cashin says the next phase of the agricultural enforcement program will target the Appaloosa Road area and bylaw officers have already begun notifying land-owners who are not in compliance with land use regulations.
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