KELOWNA - After initially being deferred for a lengthy and controversial public hearing in May, Kelowna city councillors approved a new plan for temporary farm worker housing today.
The bylaw is aimed at streamlining the process for smaller scale farms to house temporary farm workers.
The new, adjusted bylaw, which was approved by city council today, June 19, addresses issues the agricultural community had with the previous version.
“We’ve come a long way, and landed on a spot that works for all of us,” Coun. Mohini Singh said.
Due to previous feedback that there was not enough communication between city officials and farmers, councillors said they were happy to see increased interaction between the parties in regards to the new plan.
“I’m relieved to see it’s finally come to this point where we’ve had significant dialogue,” Singh said. “I hope we all learned from this, and the community continues to work with us and provide input in a timely fashion so we can provide policies that will be good for the community.”
Since the bylaw's first reading, the City has met with members of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association three times, and had three e-mail conversations with the group. Additionally, according to city staff, the City received an e-mail late Friday from the Growers’ Association supporting the package. The Ministry of Agriculture and the City have had five phone meetings and three e-mail conversations as well.
One of the main concerns about the bylaw was the amount of workers it would take in order to require a public hearing for someone to apply for temporary farm work housing.
Originally, any farm applying for 40 or more temporary workers would have to go to a public hearing. However, for farm units over eight hectares, this number has now been increased to 60 workers.
As it currently stands, farmers have to apply with the City for temporary farm worker housing, however no public hearing is required.
Additionally, instead of the original eight month period during which farmers could provide housing, farmers are now allotted 10 months.
“I’m going to vote in favour of this today but I do have some significant concerns,” Coun. Ryan Donn said. “There is a concern that the public won’t have any input when 60 temporary farm workers could be moving in next door.”
The unanimously approved bylaw has to be officially approved by the Ministry of Agriculture before coming into effect. The amendments to the official city plan, as well as changes to the zoning bylaw will come before public hearing on July 11.
Click here for previous stories on temporary farm worker housing.
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