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Lake Country orchardist threatened with ticket for highway fruit stand

Click to play video: 'Okanagan orchardist giving away apples for free' Okanagan orchardist giving away apples for free
WATCH: A Lake Country farmer was giving away boxes of free apples over the weekend from a fruit stand next to the highway, because he has been told he is no longer allowed to sell them there. – Oct 13, 2020

A Lake Country orchardist was giving away free boxes of apples on Sunday, after being told he could be ticketed for selling apples from his Highway 97 fruit stand.

The District of Lake Country said someone complained about the roadside tent fruit stand. The property is zoned rural residential and the fruit stand contravenes the municipality’s zoning bylaw.

Orchardist Alan Gatzke said prior to this month, he’s been selling produce from the location for at least seven years without issue. He leases the location from another farmer.

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On Sunday, along with giving away boxes of fruit, he was urging the public to email the District of Lake Country in support of his stand.

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“We hope that the community finds us worthy of supporting and their support is heard by council,” Gatzke said.

The orchardist said the stand, which sold apples for around 50 cents a pound, had a lot of community support, stating that many people see the low price as a community service.

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BC Fruit Growers’ Association sheds light on tough returns for apple farmers – Oct 10, 2020

Gatzke said he started using the property along the 9400 block of Highway 97 to sell produce in the fall, because traffic to his main location in Oyama drops off when people are no longer visiting the beach.

However, after being told his sales are not allowed on the highway site, Gatzke said on Tuesday he plans to remove the fruit stand tent this week to protect his relationship with the landowner.

The orchardist said it’s already challenging to make a profit selling apples. With this additional hurdle, he’s now thinking about growing fewer apples in the future and ending leases at two properties where he currently grows apples.

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Gatzke argues that while the property where his stand was located is zoned rural residential, the large multi-acre lot is still operated as a farm and so the fruit stand didn’t change the character of the area.

In a letter to Gatzke, the district said it had forwarded the complaint to the ministry of transportation to see if the province had any comments about signs, site lines or highway access in connection with the fruit stand.

The municipality’s letter said one possible solution is for Gatzke to apply to council for a temporary use permit, which would also require a business license.

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Another business in the area also suggested it may have a nearby location Gatzke could use for fruit sales.

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The municipality said in a statement to Global News it “absolutely supports agriculture and local businesses,” but if a zoning bylaw is not being followed, Lake Country “will attempt to work with the business to try and achieve compliance.”

“If anyone in the community does wish to have a retail business on residential property there are options. They can apply for a temporary use permit, which would be considered by council,” Ruth Sulentich, a communications and public engagement specialist for the District of Lake Country, wrote.

When contacted by Global Okanagan about whether it might change its position on the roadside fruit stand, the District of Lake Country’s initial response was to say that its letter had not directed Gatzke to cease operations “but rather the district was requesting information by October 16.”

However, the district’s letter to Gatzke stated that the sale of produce from the roadside fruit stand property is contrary to a district zoning bylaw and is considered a ticketable offence.

The letter closes with the line “Please advise no later than Friday, October 16, 2020, if you intend to dismantle and cease the operation.”

— With files from Kimberly Davidson

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