Mike Reiley, Coldstream’s director of development services, discusses a proposal for 10 Atco-style trailers to be used for farm worker housing at the Coral Beach Farms property on Warren Road in Lavington.                                - Image Credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

Mike Reiley, Coldstream’s director of development services, discusses a proposal for 10 Atco-style trailers to be used for farm worker housing at the Coral Beach Farms property on Warren Road in Lavington. - Image Credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

Farm housing faces challenge

Efforts to minimize the impact of farm housing on an agricultural lot are being hindered by emotions, according to the owner.

Coral Beach Farms had plans to move Atco-style trailers onto its Warren Road property in Lavington for workers housing. As opposed to building individual pickers cabins, the trailers would accommodate more individuals, take up half the space and since they are non-permanent they could be moved in the off season.

“The object would be to make this whole unit temporary so that it can be removed,” said owner David Geen, who also planned to move the trailers to the back of the property to minimize the impact to neighbours.

But a draw at Coldstream council (two ties with the absence of Coun. Peter McClean) overturned the variance application.

The vote followed a presentation of several upset residents complaining about farm noise from the existing Coral Beach cherry orchards.

“I was disappointed in the outcome,” said Geen. “I think the decision was based on emotions rather than a rational decision.”

Mayor Jim Garlick agrees that the timing of consideration could have been better.

“It’s unfortunate it got dragged into the noise bylaw,” said Garlick, who personally did not think anything being asked for was unreasonable and sees the benefit of workers supporting the community.

Councillors Doug Dirk, Richard Enns and Gyula Kiss voted against the variance.

“Coldstream will not get anything for that kind of development there,” said Dirk. “That’s my problem.

“We have no benefit and potential issues are left for us to deal with.”

Kiss adds: “You have the foreign workers and the transients who don’t pay any taxes to Coldstream.”

Enns agreed that there is limited benefit plus upset to residents.

“When we are asked to vary the laws we’re also asked to look at the benefits to the community.”

But the variance doesn’t prevent the owner from building. Currently 24 of the smaller cabins can be constructed but the variance would allow larger structures to be moved on site, which would cut the footprint in half.

“One of the objectives is to avoid paving agricultural land,” said Geen. “If we were to spread it out we’re chewing up good farmland.”

Supporting the variance was Coun. Glen Taylor.

“I look at this and I see the downsizing of the footprint as a plus, the covenant we’ve put in there is a plus,” he said of a requirement that the housing only be used by farm workers and that the land be restored if it is vacant for two consecutive years. That covenant would only be possible if the variance were approved.

The lack of variance limits Coldstream’s control on the building, adds Coun. Pat Cochrane.

“If we don’t allow it he could easily build those shacks right next to Buchanan Road, which would be more disruptive.”

An increased amount of Agricultural Land Reserve property used will also ensue.

“Potentially the space around them would be doubled if you had to go to separate buildings,” said Trevor Seibel, Coldstream’s chief administrative officer.

Moving forward, Geen is examining his options and may come up with a new plan.

He can re-apply but there is a waiting period up to six months. Or the variance can be re-considered within 30 days at the mayor’s discretion.

“The only way I can bring it back for consideration is if all of council is going to be there,” said Garlick, who is trying to determine if that is possible within the timeframe.