Farmland is for farming, says Kelowna city council
Applications for recycling facility, RV and boat storage on 2 parcels of farmland rejected
An agricultural property described as an industrial dumping site won’t be legalized by the City of Kelowna.
Councillors voted Monday against allowing a non-farm use to be made of the property at 1040 Old Vernon Rd., owned by an Edmonton-based demolition firm.
Debris including appliances, construction materials, vehicles, heavy equipment and even animal carcasses has been dumped on the site over the years, councillors heard, even though there is no business licence associated with the property.
“The applicant has shown a strong history of non-compliance (and disregard) for the environment, the neighbours and the law,” Coun. Tracy Gray said.
“It’s basically operating as a landfill,” said Coun. Gail Given.
McColman Demolition Services bought the property, formerly the site of a sawmill, in 2007. The inappropriate land uses have prompted various city investigations, resulting in fines and court proceedings.
In asking for council to endorse a non-farm use of the property, the demolition company said a concrete and metals recycling facility would generate income to pay for the site’s eventual return to agricultural use.
“(McColman) wants to get this all cleaned up to the point where it’s sustainable and usable for agriculture,” the company’s lawyer told council. “‘He’s not a farmer. He’s not going to want to farm this thing. He’ll get rid of it.”
But councillors doubted an industrial recycling facility, if approved, would prove to be a temporary venture.
“I think what’s happened here is the trust factor is missing,” Coun. Mohini Singh said.
Council also voted against a temporary non-farm use permit for the adjacent property, at 982 Old Vernon Rd. It is also part of the former Russo sawmill site, the entire remains of which have been described as one of Kelowna’s worst eyesores.
The owners of that property, the Kandola family, asked for the permit so they could store boats and RVs, again with a view to making money they could put toward the continued agricultural reclamation of their land.
The Kandolas’ application had the support of city staff, who said the family had spent a lot of money already in trying to clean up the property. Unlike the demolition company, city staff said, the Kandolas have been steadily removing debris from their site, not adding to it.
Nevertheless, council voted 5-3 against the temporary use permit.
The majority noted council has been clear recently about not allowing non-farming uses to take place on agricultural land.
Mayor Colin Basran said that, “for consistency,” he would reluctantly vote against the Kandolas’ non-farm permit request.