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ALR land swap divides West Kelowna council

A proposal to remove land near Okanagan Lake from the Agricultural Land Reserve has divided West Kelowna city council.

The owners of the 2.59 ha. property, near the intersection of Gellatley Road and Boucherie Road, say it is too small to be a viable farm.

They are offering to add other land in the area to the land reserve if officials agree to remove the Gellatley Road property from the ALR.

The owners argue that the steep slopes on the Gellatley Road property and the fact that a road would need to be put in to create access for a farm, mean a substantial portion of the land can’t be used for farming.

Overall, the owners estimate less than half of the land they want taken out of the ALR is actually farmable.

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When city council voted on the issue in November, one councilor was away the votes ended in a tie.

Councillor Bryden Winsby was among those who voted to remove the Gellatley Road land from the ALR and support the land swap.

“Our overall policy is very, very strongly in favour of retaining as much agricultural land as we can. But there are instances, and this is one of them I think, where the viability or the practicality of doing that is in question,” Winsby said.

“If it is lying fallow, [has] never been used and is of marginal value, then I think we have to very seriously consider putting it to another use.”

Fellow councillor Duane Ophus thinks in general land should stay in the reserve and that this case is not compelling enough to warrant an exception.

“Everybody who comes forward (wanting land removed from the ALR) argues for whatever reason it can’t be farmed. I don’t buy that argument. I think the provincial government, policy wise, has been very very into helping people be successful,” Ophus said.

“There (are) lot of things that can be done with that property in my opinion.”

The proposed land swap would see 1.44 ha. of land off of Shelter Driver added to the ALR. While the overall size of plot that is being offered for inclusion in the ALR is smaller than the 2.59 ha. property that owners hope to have removed from the land reserve, the amount of arable land on each plot is nearly identical.

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Ophus is not swayed by the proposed swap.

“If the land that is being substituted is farmable, it should be farmed,” he said.

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The issue is expected to return to council in the coming months for another vote that will hopefully break the tie.

Regardless of what council decides the final decision is up to the Agricultural Land Commission.

In the meantime, the owners are considering offering more land for inclusion in the ALR to make the swap more desirable to officials hoping to protect farm land.