At a recent District of Kent council meeting, item 9.3 on the agenda, regarding an amendment to a bylaw pertaining to gathering for events and agritourism in the Agricultural Land Reserve came under discussion.
Agritourism has gained in popularity over the years and the District of Kent is no exception. Agritourism or agrotourism, as it is defined most broadly, involves any agriculturally based operation or activity that brings visitors to a farm or ranch.
More commonly, farms, are being used for wedding locations, tourist opportunities, or as trendy new B and B locations. (The amendment caters more in favour of the trend).
Staff recommended that council consider the authorization of the amendment of the “Zoning Bylaw to ensure compliance with recent amendments to the Provincial Agricultural Land Reserve Use, Subdivision, and Procedure Regulation and Gathering for events, which includes agritourism.
“I thought it may be prohibited by local government — I thought it would give them the opportunity to regulate it as they saw fit, and now it’s something that’s not specifically for farm use, and unless there’s a bylaw it’s not something we can regulate, and the land commission will have to take care of it,” said councillor Striker.
Striker voiced concerns over the lack of a consultation process, and the non-existent opportunity to see if the new amendment would be welcomed by the community.
According to a report prepared by staff, Chief Administrative Officer Wallace Mah, acknowledged that local governments were asked to participate in the bylaw amendment by completing a survey stating what municipalities would like to see happen.
The results from the surveys were calculated with no follow up. This was a point of contention for council members.
Other considerations resulting from the bylaw amendment arose during discussion.
“It may have an effect on the halls existing for this purpose, who are authorized to have events, and there may be enforcement costs with these events, police involvement, that type of thing. The legislature is there now and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity to speak on this before the provincial government made these changes,” said Striker.
Mayor Van Laerhoven voiced similar concerns.
“I think we have to do two things — I think we have to take care of the bylaw so we comply, but I think we also have to have a discussion with the Agricultural Land Commission to let them know that we are dissatisfied with the lack of consultation.