Farmer harvests yurt plan

Spallumcheen resident Troy Sievert believes adding three traditional style yurts will benefit tourism

The yurts won’t hurt.

In fact, if all goes well, Spallumcheen resident Troy Sievert believes adding three traditional style yurts – portable, round tents covered, in this case, by canvas – to his Otter Lake Road farm property will be good for him and the agri-tourism request will benefit the township.

“We’re building a bedroom,” said Sievert in a presentation to Spallumcheen council. “The yurts will be 15-square-feet in diameter, and they’ll become fully furnished with a queen-size bed, night stand and lantern.”

There will be no power and water in the yurts, and Sievert is also proposing to build a washroom facility (handicap accessible) and an adjoining small cabin with only a bedroom, sink and hot plate at the back.

Sievert’s small, working farm currently grows grain and has some livestock.

The addition of yurts, he said, will build the agri-tourism aspect in the community.

“It’s not a campsite, there will be no RVs (recreational vehicles), and there will be a revenue stream for the township,” said Sievert. “We’re trying to develop our farm, do some farm gate sales and try to send everyone that comes to our farm laded up with as many goods as they can get from our little town.”

The hurdle for Sievert is that the township’s zoning bylaw does not permit agri-tourism accommodations.

He has applied for a zoning text amendment that would allow the yurts, but the regional district, in a report to council, recommended against.

“The proposed agri-tourism accommodations would not comply with the agricultural policies of the official community plan or the campground regulations outlined in the zoning bylaw,” said township planner Greg Routley.

However, the regional district did provide an alternate recommendation, one with eight conditions that could be considered to allow the yurts.

The conditions include the yurts being operated seasonally (not in winter, said Sievert), only three are allowed on the property, along with the washroom facility/cabin, nobody can stay more than 30 days in one calendar year and it removed the campsite requirement.

“I think it’s a great idea and we should support it,” said Coun. Joe Van Tienhoven.

The alternate recommendation was unanimously passed by council.

“This really is a test case for Spallumcheen,” said Coun. Christine Fraser. “You’re going to be scrutinized on what happens there. We’re taking this in good faith that you are doing this the way you’re saying you’re going to do it.

“If so, that’s great, it’s going to be good for the community and maybe help some other farms with similar ideas. I think we’re taking a bit of a risk but I think it’s a great idea and hope it pans out for you.”

Council passed first two readings of the zoning text amendment bylaw to allow the yurts. The matter will next be referred to a public hearing.