Letter: Farm-based RV parks work for the farmer, tourist and city coffers

Kelowna council was just recently ecstatic about a proposed RV park on a golf course which is firmly planted on agricultural land.

To the editor:

Re: City Dumps RV Use on Farmland, Aug. 10 Kelowna Capital News

Agri-tourism RV parks as failed experiment.  Not likely. From the very start the City of Kelowna and the media have failed to explain the reason why the city says we are not in compliance and why I personally have retained a lawyer to represent our RV park in the city’s lawsuit against us.

In 2010 the city brought in new bylaws pertaining to agri-tourism. Throughout the three public hearings we were repeatedly told that the existing RV parks would be grandfathered. Right at the end of the last public hearing Couns Stack and Blanleil made a motion that the existing RV parks should comply with an April 1 to Nov. 1 opening time frame (November through March closure). The city clerk informed Council that they could use the business licence bylaw to enforce the time restrictions in the new bylaw on the existing RV parks.

As I was a city councillor at the time I could not participate in any of the discussions; however during the process and repeatedly since then I have said that proper procedure was not followed.

In 2014 the city issued all the RV parks that were staying open past Nov. 1 a $500 bylaw infraction ticket. They focused on one RV park (not ours) but case law was introduced that proved the city cannot use the business licensing bylaw to enforce a land use bylaw.

Recently the city changed tactics and now maintains that we weren’t in compliance prior to the 2010 bylaw coming into effect. One of the arguments presented against me by the city to prove my non-compliance is that I have used more than five per cent of my property for my RV park. However, city staff has never mentioned that before the new bylaw came into effect the city actually allowed 10 per cent of property to be used. City staff and council have failed to mention that they actually wanted nothing to do with the agri-tourism RV parks prior to the new bylaw.

I recently put a package together and tried to meet with each [currently sitting] councillor to explain my position. Couns Stack and Singh didn’t have the common courtesy to respond to my request and Coun.s Given and Dehart were unwilling to discuss the matter. To their credit, the four newly elected councillors did meet with me, as did the mayor.

Throughout the last five years the focus has been on the existing agri-tourism RV parks shutting down for five months (November through March) in order to comply with the 2010 bylaw. Not once have I said I would not close my RV park but a five month closure is punitive and quite frankly, stupid. There are tourists moving through Kelowna in November and December bound for the U.S. and March is one of our busier months with people returning to Canada from the U.S.

Council and city staff have spent an inordinate amount of time and money trying to enforce a bylaw that does not apply to us.

Agri-tourism RV parks a failed experiment? Council was just recently ecstatic about a proposed RV park on a golf course which is firmly planted on agricultural land. They had no qualms about approving 30 sites on some of the best agricultural land in Kelowna. Coun. Stack was particularly vocal about what a fantastic idea this was despite the fact that he has been one of the main detractors of the current agri-tourism RV parks that are located on land actually engaged in agriculture.

Despite what council thinks about the lack of agriculture in the agri-tourism RV parks, our guests at Scenic View RV park are, at this moment, delighted to walk into our orchard and pick tree-ripened peaches. They sit at their picnic tables and watch our free-range beef roam though our pasture and enjoy the view of the surrounding orchards and fields.

We are not a failed experiment. We are a viable, legitimate agri-tourism business that brings in thousands of dollars annually to the City of Kelowna. We were in business prior to the  existing bylaw coming into effect. At the public hearing in 2010 we were told that we were grandfathered and we continue to operate under that assumption.

Graeme James, Scenic View RV Park, Kelowna