Farmers take aim at council

Agricultural land owners unhappy with OCP changes

Agricultural changes in Coldstream are being called a backwards attempt at supporting local farms.

Proposed amendments to Coldstream’s official community plan include limiting future parcel sizes in the agricultural land reserve to a minimum 10 hectares (24.7 acres). The minimum is currently set at two hectares (approximately five acres).

Coldstream defends that the changes support agriculture by encouraging farming with larger lots.

“The Ministry of Agriculture likes to encourage large parcels because when it’s a larger property they are more likely to stay and farm,” said Coun. Maria Besso.

But some local farmers say the changes are a backwards attempt at supporting agriculture.

“Where we’re going here is the wrong direction,” said Asif Mohammad, encouraging smaller parcels that prospective farmers might actually be able to afford.

“How is he going to be able to afford to buy 24 acres? Who’s going to finance him,” said Mohammad, adding that larger lots are also harder, if not impossible, to insure, as he has found out.

Looking around the community and seeing a number of agricultural parcels going to waste, Mohammad suggests smaller plots would better encourage farming.

“People can’t eat weeds, people need to eat food.”

Leanne Knowles moved to Coldstream for the rural lifestyle and had hoped in the future to purchase a small acreage to farm.

“With this amendment you are effectively preventing this from ever happening,” said Knowles in a letter against the changes.

But Mayor Jim Garlick says the opportunity for small farms will and does exist in Coldstream.

“Ninety-five per cent of properties are under 20 hectares at this time.”

Roxanne Ronan and her family say the amendments will prevent them from subdividing in the future if they wanted to gift a portion of their 43-acre property to their children or sell a plot if finances deem necessary.

“But sell to who? Land prices are way too high for self-sustaining agriculture – no true farm operation can afford to buy large pieces,” said Ronan in her letter.

Lavington resident Robyn Dalziel agrees the restrictions are aimed at the wrong people.

“We (farmers) have enough restrictions. Move the restrictions on to those who are sitting on agricultural land and not farming it.”

The agricultural plan changes in the OCP also include requiring 10-metre buffer zones between new development and agricultural land. But the restrictions do not apply to existing properties.

The OCP amendments are now closed to public submissions, but there will be a public opportunity to review the parcel size change during the zoning bylaw process, expected to commence in the near future.