Members of the Kelowna Radio Controller's Association at an indoor flight night.

Remote control flying club wins court appeal over District of Lake Country

BC Court of Appeal sides with Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controller's Association, overturning Supreme Court ruling

The BC Court of Appeal has reversed an court decision in a case between the Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controllers Association and the District of Lake Country, ruling that flying remote control airplanes on a designated piece of farm land in Lake Country is within the permitted uses as laid out in District of Lake Country bylaws.

Lake Country had earlier won a Supreme Court ruling against the club, which had been flying in an area of Lake Country designated for farm use. The district asked the club to leave the area, saying its bylaws did not allow using the remote control airplanes in the area.

But in a ruling released on Tuesday, the court of appeal said that the trial judge had erred in making the ruling.

“The chambers judge unjustifiably restricted the ambit of the zoning bylaw’s “farm” classification to activities directly associated with agriculture,” read the ruling. “Properly construed, the “farm” classification permits complementary uses suitable to an agricultural setting. This includes activities not directly associated with farming but conducive to the setting in the sense that they do not disrupt or change the essential agricultural character of the land. The club’s model aircraft flights fall within this category and consequently constitute permissible secondary use of the farm land.”

It’s not immediately clear what the ruling means to both sides.

The remote control club was originally granted the right to fly on the land in question before Lake Country shut it down, citing the bylaws. The case went to court.

The original court case centred on the club’s use of an unpaved airstrip on the property, which is protected under the Agriculture Land Commission. Both the ALC and the Lake Country bylaws have among its uses an unpaved airstrip. Lake Country argued that the bylaws meant uses associated with farming while the remote control club maintained the bylaw was broad enough to cover other associated uses such as weddings and social events and should also include remote control flying.

After the Supreme Court ruling in Lake Country’s favour in October of 2013, the club was asked to leave immediately and had been looking for other areas to fly in. The land owner and the club have yet to agree to renewed lease terms on the piece of property but the club continues to use a portion of the property on a month to month basis, according to the judgement.

The model aircraft operated by the club and its members and visitors range up to 35 kilograms (77 pounds) and are radio and WiFi controlled fixed wing model aircraft and helicopters. The model aircraft that take off and land from the airstrip and are propelled by electric motors and internal combustion engines.

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