One of the more hotly debated topics in Okanagan tourism revisited city council Monday, when a request to put seven RV lots on a Kelowna farm was denied.
Co-owner of Don-O-Ray vegetables, Satnam Basram, asked council to approve a rezoning amendment that would allow for the installation of RV pads on the Benvoulin Road side of his property.
The agri-tourism rooted proposal highlighted the fact Don-O-Ray Vegetables is a legitimate, successful agricultural business and the inclusion of accommodation would meet the requirements of a bylaw passed last year.
Before the application even came to council, Basram managed to get the support of city staff and the Agricultural Advisory Committee, which said it was the “best example of agritourism accommodation that’s been brought forth to date” but that didn’t faze city councillors who focused their attention on the unsightliness of trailer parks on farmland.
“I think the visual impact will be horrendous,” said Coun. Andre Blanleil.
“I think it’s going to look like a quasi-mobile home park on the side of the road.
“From an agricultural point of view, I see why you want to do it, but from a visual perspective it’s going to look awful.”
That perception found favour with Coun. Robert Hobson, who kicked-in that the RV pads would be going on some of the “very best vegetable growing land in the north end of the Valley.”
“The vision we have have for the Benvoulin corridor is not to have a bunch of mobile homes and RV vehicles on the side of the road,” he said. “It doesn’t look like agritourism at all.”
Hobson went on to say that he didn’t even agree with the policy that city council came up with last year, to address the proliferation of so-called temporary RV lots.
Last year city council was forced to deal with the issue when more than a dozen lots had popped up, largely in Rutland, as a means for financial flagging farmers to make some extra income.
Complaints poured in that trees were being destroyed, neighbourhood safety was being compromised and the lots were less about tourism and more about cheap, permanent housing.
To get a grasp on the issue, the city formed a bylaw that limited the amount of RV lots allowed on a property, the length of stay and several other features in an attempt to keep the practice alive, but contained.
And as Coun. Michele Rule pointed out, that was a time they could have created measures to buffer the visual impact of the sites.
“We did, as a council, agree to this policy,” Rule said. “I am happy to see this come through this process. Had we had this in the start we would have headed off some of the problems. The proposed area not actively farmed, is it vacant, nor will we be taking out of production.”
In the end, however, the motion failed when council split the vote down the middle.
Couns. Blanleil, Hobson, Hodge and Mayor Sharon Shepherd were opposed. Couns. Rule, Kevin Craig, Angela Reid were in favour, while Coun. Graeme James abstained due to a conflict of interest.