North Saanich and its chosen long-term operator for Sandown agricultural lands find each other disagreeing over the need for a building permit on the lands.
Brian Green, director of planning community and services, said the municipality must receive a building permit for the hoop house that Fickle Fig Farm Market — a subtenant of the Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture — has erected on the property to shelter pigs.
“The provincial building code is pretty clear,” he said. “Any building over 10 square metres requires a building permit.”
He made that comment after councillors meeting on March 15 had received a letter that day from the centre asking staff to “look further into the regulatory nuances” before determining the compliance of the hoop house.
The letter from Jen Rashleigh, director of partner and community engagement for Circular Farm, said the structure sits on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve. ”As such, multiple regulations are relevant,” she said.
They include a provision in the provincial Agricultural Land Commission Act which states that all municipal bylaws must be consistent with the act. Its language includes structures for use in an “intensive livestock operation” among other necessary structures that “may not be prohibited.”
While Rashleigh acknowledged that bylaws regulate rather than prohibit, “it is important to consider that the rigors of the (building code) make utilization of a hoop house structure cost prohibitive.”
Bringing hoop houses up to building code standards put them “out of the realm of economic possibility” for growers, she said.
She also points to language in the farm practices protection (right to farm) act, which says “farm operating on land within the Agricultural Land Reserve must not be prevented from conducting that farm operation which includes using farm structures,” as long as farmers are not deemed to be a nuisance due to odour, noise, dust or any other disturbance.
Green acknowledged these provisions, but said they did not address the health and safety of people and animals in built environments, raising the possibility that the municipality may issue a stop-work order.
Council Monday asked staff to reply to Rashleigh (whose letter points to several possible outcomes including removal of the structure). Councillors also deferred to their next meeting a notice of motion from Coun. Jack McClintock asking staff to meet with SCRA to “emphasize the importance of compliance and establish a deadline for submission of a (building permit application).”
Meghan Mason, spokesperson for the municipality, said staff have been in contact with the SCRA throughout this process to assist and inform them of the necessary permits. “At this time, a stop work order has not been issued,” she said.
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