It was standing room only at the District of Lake Country council meeting on March 20. The packed council chambers were due to two separate yet conflated issues about temporary permits and land zoning along Seaton Road.
To find Seaton Road in Lake Country, travel west on Glenmore Road and keep going through the intersection, it becomes Seaton Road which leads to the new Sage Glen neighbourhood and the long established yet slowly being deactivated gravel pits.
Currently, the properties on the south side of Seaton Road are zoned in the Agricultural Land Reserve, but in the Official Community Plan, the properties are slated to become zoned I-1, general, for industrial use. The future zoning plans also include the decommissioned but not reclaimed gravel pits south of Okanagan Centre Road West.
While there are seven properties along the south side of Seaton Road up for eventual rezoning, the public interest at this time is focused two particular properties. The home owned by Diane Wilde on an acre and a half, and the slightly larger property owned by the Farmer family that surrounds Wilde’s property in a ‘C’ shape.
Jeremy Farmer had applied to the ALR to have the property rezoned to I-1, pending a motion from district council.
Many area residents say this is the first they have heard of the possibility of that rezoning application, despite the OCP process and are opposed not only to Farmer’s application, but to every property designated under the OCP to be eventually converted to I-1.
The second issue that had area residents upset is the neighbour relationship between Wilde and the Farmer, and the Farmer’s temporary use permit of their land for the storage of heavy equipment. Farmer is a heavy duty mechanic and had taken out a permit in the past for business dealings on his property.
Wilde has documented over 100 instances of past breaches of conditions of the temporary use permit.
At the council meeting, there were mutterings of dismay from the crowd when they learned that the rezoning bylaws were up for first and second reading, and therefore not open to public comment yet, as per statutory regulation.
After some administrative discussion, three parcels of the potential seven were passed through first and second reading: The property owned by Farmer and a pair of neighbouring properties to the west owned by the Free Methodist Church.
The location, date and time for the public hearing must be posted through advertising in local newspapers for two weeks prior to the meeting. Staff must prepare reports prior to that announcement.
Temporary use permit
During the public comment portion of March 20 council meeting, it was possible for the public to make their opinions known about the temporary use permit that was issued to the Farmer. Of most concern to residents was the perceived inability of bylaw enforcement to achieve visible results in regards to the activity on the Farmer’s property. Residents firmly expressed their concern that enforcement was not effective.
Lake Country Mayor James Baker pointed out that orders and tickets had been issued and that if compliance isn’t achieved through those methods, the district can either revoke the temporary use permit, choose to not renew it, or eventually pursue court action.
After listening to the very cranky crowd, mayor and council unanimously passed a motion denying Farmer a renewal of his temporary use permit.
In a later interview, Baker said bylaw enforcement relies in part on the willingness of people to be a good neighbour. “We act on every complaint and try to get people to comply. We send out the bylaw officer, we have ticketing. But if it doesn’t work eventually it is court and that is expensive.”
Wilde’s side of the story
Diane Wilde purchased her quaint farm house on Seaton Road in 2002 precisely because it is the ALR. “I love this community and area.”
The Farmer family moved in about a year later and for a while everything was smooth sailing. But in 2005, Wilde said they started moving in dump truck loads of dirt fill, altering the landscaping surrounding her home.
After making a verbal complaint to the district, Wilde said the problem of the excess fill was never solved and she never heard back from the district. However, life went on a little less happily than before, but manageable.
In 2009, activity on the lands surrounding her home really picked up. A very large pile of steel girders was deposited on her eastern property line, disturbing her view.
She made a formal complaint in 2011 after discussions led nowhere.
By that time a large retaining wall had been erected on the Farmer property on the hillside above Wilde’s property with no permit or geotechnical engineering.
Wilde’s concern is that without proper engineering, there is a direct threat to her home below the wall.
She continued filing written complaints in regards to the construction and earth movement in the spring of 2011 and was advised that Farmer had received two warnings and letters, yet to her eyes nothing had changed around her.
On the earth work alone compliance is an issue that has her baffled and wondering if more can’t be done.
In late 2010, Farmer received a temporary use permit to operate a business storing heavy equipment on his property. There were strict times for operation, odor and noise. Wilde has over 100 documented instances of non-compliance during the year of 2011.
By 2012, Wilde said at a January meeting with district staff she was told the only consequences that would be assigned to Farmer was non-renewal of the temporary use permit.
That month, Wilde said earth movement on the Farmer property started up again, with fallow fields stripped down to the east of her property and piling up of the dirt along her fence line.
By mid-February, Wilde said she had enough and went door to door in the neighbourhood asking for support in her request that Farmer’s temporary use permit not be renewed. She also informed neighbours on the same petition of the plans within the OCP for the eventual rezoning of the properties along Seaton Road.
It is within the petition that the two issues become intertwined and the neighbours upset.
Cathy Wheeler farms nearby, and spoke at the council meeting and was with Wilde for moral support during the interview. “I strongly object to the rezoning of the property and removal from the ALR,” Wheeler said.
The other side
In the wake of public opposition, Jeremy Farmer released a single written statement, which reads: “I respect council’s decision as it pertains to the renewal of my temporary use permit. As a result, my priorities are to relocate my business which will be a challenge given the lack of locations currently zoned for a business such as mine. As a heavy equipment mechanic, an issue as simple as having a place to safely and securely park my service truck and other equipment impacts my livelihood.
“My next highest priority is to assess whether or not I can bank on Lake Country’s Official Community Plan in order to plan a future for me and my family. After a lengthy public consultation process, the OCP designated the future land use of my property and a surrounding (approx.) 30 additional acres as ‘industrial.’ Obviously, the results of my rezoning applications and that of a neighboring property owner will ultimately decide this matter.”
Keep watching for the location, date and time for a public hearing which must be posted through advertising in local papers for two weeks prior to the meeting.