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Rural RV Enclaves Irritate British Columbia City

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May 21, 2010 by   Comments Off on Rural RV Enclaves Irritate British Columbia City

Paula Morrison moved to her rural neighborhood outside of Kelowna, British Columbia, about 10 years ago to raise her children and live a peaceful existence.

It was all going well until recently, when a cavalcade of RVs moved onto her street, increasing what was once a six-home neighbourhood into an area of residence for 34 families. And that number, she said, is ever-increasing, according to bclocalnews.com.

“I started noticing that one neighbor was moving trailers onto his property and I thought it was family or friends,” she said.

“Then I found out he was renting month-to-month. We have a wonderful pocket of farmland here and every time I wake up it seems like there’s another RV site opening.”

While making inquiries into how her neighbouhood could change so quickly, she learned that these RV farm sites are sanctioned by the city, through business licenses, and are an approved use of farmland by the Agricultural Land Commission.

It was a policy that didn’t resonate well with Morrison, as she believes most of the businesses have nothing to do with agriculture — paving over trees to bring in camping pads.

And worse yet, it’s creating a safety concern for the families who are using the land for traditional farming, she said.

“There’s a density, environmental and sustainability issue here,” she said, explaining that most of those who use the site aren’t tourists, they’re full-time residents.

“We already see a rise in police enforcement in our area, directly linked to the current 10-site trailer park/property that has been running for the past year (on) Morrison Road,” she stated.

“With two more properties approved and the addition of 18 more sites to the area and one directly adjacent to our property, we are gravely concerned with the increased negative impact of the tenants and the impact on the surrounding neighbours, and the safety of children.”

The concerns of Morrison and others are at the center of a soon-to-be scheduled public hearing that was discussed at the May 17 city council meeting.

City staff offered up some stricter bylaws to deal with the 14 to 16 RV agri-tourism sites currently operating on farmland around Kelowna, where neighbors’ concerns over the sanitary facilities provided, as well as the impact on agricultural land, run rampant.

Proposed regulations, which could come to be after the hearing, would address those issues by restricting the number of RV spots that could be made available on farms, and pushing the boundary of the RV site further into the landowner’s space, among other things.

Councillor Luke Stack has been speaking with Kelowna residents who are being impacted by these inpromptu campgrounds, and has visited a few to figure out what’s happening.

“I went to look at the ones at Morrison Street and they look very much like an established RV Park, and that disturbed me,” said Stack.

“The idea of agri-tourism is to support local farmers and enhance the viability of a particular farm.

“My concern is if the RV part of the park dominates the farm, that’s not supporting the primary goal of agriculture.”

At minimum, Stack said he’d like to see firm regulations on how many RV units can be put on a farm, minimum setbacks from neighbous and other farms, and that there is something binding people from making the RV site their permanent residence.

“When I looked around, some RVs had framed in the bottom of their trailers,” he said.

“The purpose was never to create more housing.”

That, in conjunction with misuse, has prompted Stack to believe the city should not only enforce the existing bylaws more ardently, but also stop issuing business licenses for future RV campground owners.

It’s not a point of view that resonated well with Catalina Dudka, of Caramoomel Natural Fine Foods.

Her family has farmed 20 acres of land at Morrison Road since the 1970s, and haa adapted several times to make ends meet.

RV agri-tourism, she said, is just a natural evolution to an industry that’s struggling.

“We needed more exposure, it was a complimentary thing. Visitors stay, do a tour of the facilities, love them, buy them and give them away, spreading the word,” she said.

There are two other RV farm sites on her street.

While hers has yet to get fully into the swing of things, she’s already invested $200,000 to meet city regulations.

If new restrictions come into play, she and her family will be put in a tough position.

“This business isn’t easy to do,” she said of the vegetable and fruit products business her parents started 20 years ago after farming left them high and dry.

“The food industry is very competitive and we needed to supplement our income with something.

“So we looked at the numbers of RVs and thought there’s a steadiness to the income we can appreciate.”

Her parents run the business, and they’re aging. That alone adds incentive to the agri-tourism model, she said.

“Once you set up, it doesn’t give a lot of work to upkeep, and it’s steady backup for when things aren’t so hot on the other side,” she said

Dudka added that drawing in travelers with home-made goods is a tradition that spans centuries, so she’s not sure what the fuss is all about.

She also couldn’t speak to knowledge of anyone who is abusing the model by not farming the land where RVs are parked.

Dudka believes that the city is lacking amenities, and those businesses are a natural evolution, filling the gap.

However, that’s not something that Morrison has any sympathy for as she’ll be at the upcoming public hearing making sure that people hear her concerns.

“Ultimately the policy should be reviewed to ensure that the bylaws support farmers and that it is not detrimental to farming,” she said.

“To ensure there is a connection to the land.

“There is very little if any agricultural work going on the properties I have mentioned.”

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