Deadline given to repatriate farmland

Deadline given to repatriate farmland

This RV storage site north of Oliver must be converted back to farmland following a decision by the Agricultural Land Commission. (Photo by Lyonel Doherty)

By Lyonel Doherty

The owner of an RV storage lot north of Oliver has until June to repatriate the land back to agricultural use.

Basically, this means removing the aggregate that was used to develop the land as a storage site for recreational vehicles.

The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is giving Avro Oil Ltd. (Terry Feeny) until June 15 to do this.

According to compliance and enforcement officer Tishtaar Titina, the commercial business (EZ Mini Storage) at 7910 Highway 97 is in contravention of the ALC Act.

Titina noted that depositing several loads of aggregate is not a permitted use in the Agricultural Land Reserve without ALC permission.

The property owner did apply for a non-farm use application but that wasn’t approved. Now, he is required to undo any fill placement that was associated with the storage facility.

The original deadline was March 31, but after speaking to the property owner, the ALC agreed to extend the deadline to June 15.

The Chronicle left a telephone message with Feeny late last week but he did not respond as of today.

Area C’s Advisory Planning Commission looked at the storage proposal last spring. Feeny stated that no agricultural activities have taken place on the property, which previously housed a mechanic’s shop and single residence. Years before that it accommodated a convenience store.

He added there is no water to the site (one-hectare property) and no agricultural improvements have been made to it.

But district planner Chris Garrish reported that the regional district received complaints in 2018 about topsoil being removed from the property and replaced with gravel.

Garrish expressed some reservations about the storage proposal alienating agricultural land.

In its reasons for decision, the ALC stated it sent a notice of contravention to Feeny in February 2019 after hearing complaints that he was operating a commercial business on the site.

As background, an application (in 1982) was submitted to the ALC to exclude the one-hectare property from the ALR. The ALC refused the application on the grounds the property was still suitable for agriculture.

In 1993, an application was submitted to use an existing building on the property as an automotive repair shop. The commission approved the plan on condition that a fence be constructed around the shop to isolate it from the existing orchard.

In February of 2019, Feeny applied for a permit to demolish the shop and accessory buildings on site. This was subsequently carried out.

Based on agricultural capability ratings, the ALC found that the property has prime farming opportunities which existed historically.

The commission said approving the applicant’s plan would require the regional district to rezone the property for industrial uses to accommodate the storage area.

“If the property were to be converted to industrial uses, the panel is concerned that this would eliminate the possibility of the property being farmed in the future,” the ALC said.

While demand for outdoor storage may exist, the panel found this facility would be better suited in an area outside the ALR.

Area C director Rick Knodel said he and other regional directors did see this situation coming to a head with the ALC.

“I know that Terry still feels hard done by, but (despite warning) he made the decision to go ahead and his usage had no agricultural connection.”

Knodel provided some additional background on the property. He said the

original commercial zone was granted for an agricultural business known as Wilcox Nursery. When that closed a number of other enterprises followed, such as a corner store, a four-unit motel, TV repair, and two auto repair shops; first Ernie’s and then Curt’s.

But Knodel said the majority of the property was always farmed (an orchard for the most part).

“The last few years it lay fallow but that does not remove land from the ALR.”