The province’s Agricultural Land Commission appears to be leaving the final word on some applications to vary use of farm land in the city in the hands of Kelowna council.
According to Mayor Colin Basran, in a meeting Monday with ALC chairman Frank Leonard and CEO Kim Grout, he and his councillors were told they don’t have to forward issues on to the commission for a ruling if council rejects the application under its zoning and land-use rules.
“That’s what I took away from (the discussion),” said Basran.
But Basran said his council has yet to discuss if it will continue the practice of forwarding applications that don’t have the support of council to the ALC.
Up to now, Basran agreed it has generally been accepted that if a municipal council does not support an application, the commission will likely reject it too. “What we heard from the ALC was, have confidence. You have regulations in place to deal with these issues. Don’t feel you have to guess,” Basran told reporters following the meeting.
He said the ALC consider municipalities to be equal partners in enforcing, regulating and protecting agricultural land.
Basran was also happy to hear that the ALC plans to double the number of inspectors it has here to enforce Agricultural Land Reserve rules to four and add another two by the end of the year. That is a big issue for Kelowna as about 40 per cent of its land base is in the reserve.
The other big win for the city was an endorsement of Kelowna’s position on housing for temporary foreign farm workers. The city is opposed to large permanent structures being built on farms to house the workers and has rejected applications for them in recent month.
Basran said the ALC chairman and CEO support Kelowna council on that issue.
“Grout and Leonard’s comments were that (housing structures) should be temporary in nature because it is seasonal,” said Basran. “Massive permanent structures aren’t in keeping with the spirit of what’s intended for temporary foreign worker housing.”