Kelowna council rejects ‘small hotel’ for temporary farm workers

Faming family wants to built two permanent buildings to house a total of 80 workers on a farm in the city.

Kelowna city council has rejected a proposal by a local farming family to build what some councillors described as a “small hotel” for farm workers on agricultural land in the city.

The proposal, by the Sandher family asked council to support its plan to build two permanent buildings on farmland they own at 1090 McKenzie Road. The buildings would each provide accommodation for 40 workers. In addition, the farm already has accommodation for 50 temporary far workers.

But council balked after city staff recommended the application for approval be turned down.

“What you are talking about here is a small hotel,” said Coun. Maxine DeHart, who along with four other councillors and the mayor voted against the proposal.

The family owns farm land throughout the Okanagan and said it requires as many as 350 workers this year to bring in its crops. But it needed accommodation for the workers, many who come from Mexico and Cuba to work here.

While the buildings would only be used for only 50 days in the year, the Sandhers argued that it would be more economical and use up less agricultural land to go with its plan than to scatter farm worker accommodation across a number of areas.

But Mayor Colin Basran said not only do city regulations not allow what was being proposed, the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, which regulates use of agricultural land in B.C., has said it an application for such permanent housing is made to it, it will also reject the plan.

Despite the majority being opposed, the plan did have some support on council.

Both Coun. Mohini Singh and Coun. Charlie Hodge said they felt the proposal had merit but recognized it would likely not be approved by the ALC.