Agricultural issues to be dealt with by Kelowna city council this week.

Update: Housing for temporary farm workers policy wins Kelowna council support

Local governments across the Central Okanagan are taking a serious look at temporary farm worker housing.

Update: At it’s regular Monday afternoon meeting, Kelowna city council approved the new policy to deal with temporary farm worker housing in the city.

“The city has a responsibility to look after not only its permanent residents (of Kelowna) but also its temporary residents,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge in supporting the changes. “This is a good step.”

Council was told that when it comes to enforcement of the new rules, it will be up to the city to deal with issue of temporary farm worker housing through its bylaw enforcement department.

Mayor Colin Basran said the development of the new policy, in conjunction with Lake Country, West Kelowna, the Central Okanagan Regional District, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agriculture Land Commission shows the city recoginizes the importance of agriculture to the community.

Coun. Luke Stack said he particularly liked the March to November timeframe for use of the temporary housing, saying with that in place, the policy could be administerd in what he called “an acceptable way.”

“I think that’s a very good strategy,” said Stack.

Original story: After grappling with the issue of housing for temporary farm workers several times in the last few years, the City of Kelowna is looking to amend its zoning bylaws as part of a policy to address the need that it says will not only meet provincial standards, but also be consistent across the Central Okanagan.

So it has teamed up with the regional district,West Kelowna, Lake Country, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Land Commission to develop a policy all jurisdictions here can use.

The work did not include Peachland because it opted out, saying the issue is not one that impacts it very much because it does not have a lot of farmland.

Based on best practices in six other agricultural-oriented municipalities in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley, the policy will try to minimize the footprint of development on farm land here, require the use of existing housing on a farm as the first option where possible, require the housing to be temporary on non-permanent foundations, address dwellings on all farm property including leased land, address buffers to adjacent properties and minimize the risk of temporary farm worker housing being used for non-farm purposes.

To meet these objectives, the City of Kelowna proposes to change its Official Community Plan, zoning bylaws and amend its development application procedures to allow staff to deal with housing for eight workers or less. Larger temporary housing applications would still go to council for approval.

According to city staff, the changes have the approval of both the agriculture ministry and the ALC.

They will be presented to council for discussion at Monday’s regular council meeting.

Meanwhile Lake Country will deal  with the policy as it pertains to its rules towards the end of this year and West Kelowna will consider it as part of its zoning bylaw review later this fall.

The city’s version differs slightly from the regional district’s city staff say in a report to council. But the goal is the same.

Staff say it is important to have a consistent approach to the issue across the Central Okanagan.

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