By Lyonel Doherty
On Thursday the board voted not to authorize Raghvir Dhaliwal’s application to proceed to the Agricultural Land Commission.
The young man owns and operates Oliver Rental Centre that opened its doors on Sawmill Road in April of 2018 without prior approval from the commission. According to regional planner Chris Garrish, bylaw enforcement staff advised the owner that the zoning did not allow this type of use on agricultural land.
Dhaliwal later applied to operate a vehicle and trailer rental business on a portion of the property, but the regional board did not authorize it. He then requested the board allow him to re-submit his proposal, which was dealt with on Thursday.
Dhaliwal told the board that farming on the property while supplying farm rental equipment is truly “enhancing the agricultural community.” He also stated there are no other non-ALR properties available in the area to conduct this business. He said it is too expensive to buy parcels that fit the criteria of his operation, noting the existing property has everything in place.
But Garrish said the central tenet of Area C’s Official Community Plan is the preservation of agricultural land. He noted this particular application may seem harmless but will change the pattern of development and character of the area.
But Dhaliwal noted this parcel of land was not used for agricultural purposes before he bought it.
“We planted cherry trees this season, which will produce long term. Most of the parcel is being used for agriculture (2.3 out of three acres),” he told the board.
He stressed that Oliver Rental Centre helps farmers, adding that everything they rent is used for farms.
A petition of support was signed by nearly 85 people.
But Area C director Rick Knodel said the big problem for the board was Dhaliwal’s expansion of the non-conforming business to include vehicle rentals. This was in conflict with the Official Community Plan, he pointed out.
Knodel said he gave the owner the option to simply continue with the original rental centre operation, which he would have supported.
“Had he just stayed with the tool rental, the board would have allowed that under a temporary use permit.”
Knodel said he did his best to accommodate the owner, who for whatever reason carried on with the expansion.
But following the board’s decision, Dhaliwal told the Chronicle that his commercial business didn’t take away any agricultural potential from that parcel.
He mentioned the fact that Woody’s Glass operated on the same parcel for 25 years and no agriculture was taking place then.
“The RDOS never said anything to Woody and neither did the Town of Oliver regarding operating on the parcel.”
He added that business licences were issued and taxes were collected on the property.
“Our business on the other hand enhances the agriculture community,” he said, noting they rent out air compressors used for blowing out irrigation lines and post-pounding equipment for vineyards and orchards.
Dhaliwal pointed out the fact he maintains two acres of cherries and plenty of ground crop, which demonstrates the preservation of agriculture on the property.
“We actually brought agriculture to the parcel, which didn’t exist prior to us being there, and yet we were shut down at the recent board meeting for not preserving agriculture.”
Dhaliwal denied the perception that he expanded the business.
“We operated in the same footprint as Woody’s Glass and we are now paying business tax on the property.”
The entrepreneur said the board’s decision will shut down the family business, which will cease operating.
“We are going to challenge this decision in court. The RDOS didn’t even agree on a term in which we try to re-locate.”