They voted twice—to support it and reject it—and both times Kelowna city councillors were unable to pass a motion on whether or not to support a bid by a local farming couple to have their land excluded from the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve.
Gabriel and Linda Coupal, clearly frustrated by the development they have seen over the years around their Munson Road farm, want the land taken out of the ALR because they say as a farm, its value has dropped because of commercial operations next door, the development of a school nearby, the location of an office building on the other side of the property, development of a subdivision across the street and increased traffic on area roads.
But council found itself evenly split on the issue with its first vote, a motion to go against a staff recommendation not to support the Coupal’s bid and instead call for the land to be released.
The tied 4-4 vote meant the motion was defeated and a second motion, to go with the staff recommendation and refuse to support the bid, also failed. It resulted in the same deadlocked result.
So in the end, while council did pass a motion urging the ALC to find a solution to the Coupal’s problem, the city will forward the issue onto the commission with no recommendation.
The final decision on land exemptions from the ALR rests with the commission but it likes to see a recommendation from the municipality in which the land is located.
“Essentially our property remains as it was when I started farming it,” Gabriel Coupal told council Monday. “Everything else has changed and we have had to adapt to those changes as opposed to them adapting to us.”
City staff had recommended council not support the Coupal’s bid to have their six-hectare farm taken out of the ALR, citing both the city’s desire to keep the area off Benvoulin Road rural and protected as farm land and the ALC’s previously stated stance that the land was arable and it would not support future applications to take any more land in the area out of the ALR.
The Coupals have operated a u-pick strawberry operation on the farm for several years.
Leading the charge to support removal was Coun. Charlie Hodge, who said it was rare for him to support the removal of any land from the ALR but in this case it was justified. “This piece of property has no future in farming,” Hodge told council.
His position was supported by fellow councillor, Mohini Singh, who ironically works for the ministry of agriculture, Brad Seiben and acting mayor Maxine DeHart.
But Couns. Luke Stake, Tracy Gray, Ryan Donn and Gail Given disagreed.
Stack said pulling the farm out of the ALR would be “shortsighted” and would result in many other area farmers “lining up at the application desk” to try and remove their land from the ALR.
And, he added, it would change what the city wants to see in the Benvoulin corridor.
So, after Hodge’s bid to have council support the Coupals request to the ALC failed, council voted on the staff recommendation to not support the request.
But, by the same result, that motion was also defeated with the same councillors who voted to support the Coupals voting against the second motion and those who voted against the first motion voting in favour of non-support.