No answer for jet boat repair biz

District of Kent council tables decision to allow non-farm use of ALR land

The operators of jet boat repair business, currently located on property within the Agricultural Land Reserve, will have to wait a little longer to find out whether council approves the non-farm use of the land.

After a long deliberation on Monday night, weighing the pros and cons of the business’ current situation, the District of Kent council decided to table the issue. They made that motion to table based two main issues: the absence of Councillor Holger Schwichtenberg, and the current home occupation bylaw, which is under review.

Staff recommended that council disapprove the application for non-farm use, because the business does not confrom with the District’s official community plan and zoning bylaw.

A staff report to council read: “As discussed during the Oct. 11, 2012 KAAC meeting, the proposed non-farm use does not provide a benefit to agriculture and does not enhance the existing agricultural activity on the property.”

The property in question is located at 1795 Fir Road in Agassiz. The proposal was for 1,000 sq. ft of the 20 acre property to be allowed to accommodate a jet boat repair business. The business is already operating on the site. While he applied for a business license, staff couldn’t approve it because of the non-conforming nature of the business.

The Kent Agricultural Advisory Committee (KAAC) did not support the application, and Councillor Lorne Fisher agreed.

“KAAC advises council to disapprove of non-farm use and I will be following that recommendation,” he stated.

But Councillors Dwayne Post and Darcy Striker questioned why this business couldn’t be allowed to remain, and continue to thrive.

“This guy will be shut down and we don’t seem to be, shall i say, helping him through it,” Striker said. “He’s got people coming from everywhere, the States, Alberta, to get boats repaired. Sometimes they stay overnight, they spend stuff here because they’re waiting for boats to be repaired. To me that benefits us a little bit and I’m going to have a hard time with this. I can’t go with this recommendation. I would like to try to help him somehow.”

Staff noted that they’ve attempted to discuss alternative locations for the business, but that the applicant hasn’t shown interest.

There are numerous problems with allowing non-farm use businesses on farm land, said CAO Wallace Mah.

“All I’m saying is that while staff is endeavoring to make things work, when you’re operating on farmland, you’re taxed significantly less than if you’re in the downtown core,” he said. “That can have an adversarial effect (with people saying) why don’t I operate my business on farmland because it’s substantially cheaper?”

Councillor Post said that the integrity of the land in question was damaged back in 2004, when the Agricultural Land Commission allowed it to be subdivided. A number of small operations have been in operation in the location over the years, including llamas and a dog kennel. He suggested that council and staff could work out a separate tax calculation for the percentage of land being used for a business, as a way to allow the jet boat repair business, High Caliber Adventures, to stay in operation.

“I respect with the KAAC says, but I think the benefit for the community outweighs the negative impact for agriculture, because i don’t see a negative impact,” Post said.

Mayor John Van Laerhoven said his concerns are with businesses that start as non-conforming to the OCP or ALC and then ask for forgiveness.

“It’s a slippery slope to allow people to do a non-complaint situation then ask for permission later,” he said.

The issue will be re-tabled when council has had a chance to review the new home occupation bylaw, which council believed could change the tenability of the business. The business will be permitted to operate without further action as council deliberates their decision.

news@ahobserver.com

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