Revelstoke council approved the development of a small hobby farm off Highway 23 North, despite the objections of many of the farm’s Columbia Park neighbours.
John & Allison Lapshinoff applied to re-zone their property to rural residential to allow them to raise honeybees, up to 50 chickens and a dozen small animals such as pigs, sheep or goats.
“We would like to contribute to Revelstoke’s growing local food economy by starting a small (hobby) farm,” they wrote in their application. “Besides fruit and vegetables, we would like to be allowed to raise small livestock, laying hens, meat birds, ducks and honeybees. Electric fencing would be utilized at all times to mitigate any issues with local wildlife.”
On Tuesday, council approved third reading following a public hearing during which many neighbours asked them to oppose it, citing worries about noise, odour and the impact on property values.
“Imagine if you will, your homes, look across the street, and imagine how you would feel if there was 50 chickens, 12 pigs, goats or sheep,” said Peggy Dafoe. “It’s not the right area to do that.”
The opposition came from people living in upper Columbia Park, across Highway 23 North from the Lapshinoff’s four-acre property. Twelve of them signed a petition opposing the re-zoning, and many of them came out to speak at the public hearing.
“Our concerns are based on noise pollution, objectionable odours and that a farm across the highway will affect our property values,” said Doug Mayer.
The majority of support for the application came from food security advocates, including the Local Food Initiative.
“The LFI believes that citizens should be able to produce their own food and enhance the health of their families by eating fresh from their backyards,” wrote president Nadja Luckau in a letter to council. “We want to encourage citizens to connect with their food, grow their own and to teach their kids about where their food comes from, and to not lose the food culture that once made our city rich in agricultural knowledge.”
The neighbours spoke strongly, saying they would be the ones directly impacted by the development of a farm next to their neighbourhood.
“They’re great neighbours but we do live downhill and downwind from them,” said Sandra Rourke. “The people that wrote their support do not live close by and will not be impacted.”
Eric Defoe questioned the ability of the City of Revelstoke to enforce bylaws and regulate any noise or odour issues arising from the farm.
“The residents of Dallas Road have very little confidence in Bylaw Enforcement to deal with it,” he said.
Mayor and council was divided in its support.
Coun. Linda Nixon called it a tough vote, saying she both understood the neighbours’ concerns, but also recognized that council backed food security initiatives.
Councilllor Connie Brothers and Mayor Mark McKee both said they were opposed.
“The livestock and heavy machinery is the concern of the neighbourhood,” McKee said. “I think we’re being asked to introduce too big of a change into an existing neighbourhood.”
Councillors Aaron Orlando and Gary Sulz both expressed support, and cited their own experience with farms, the former at his grandparents hobby farm, and the latter at his own farm.
“We couldn’t smell the pigs because they were cared for in a way that made the farming sustainable,” said Sulz. “Based on my previous experience, I’m going to support this going forward. I know some of the neighbours are worried about the smell and numbers, but my experience says if this done properly, it’s not going to be an issue.”
Sulz’s words had an impact. When it came time to vote, all four councillors present voted to support the application, while McKee voted against it. Couns. Scott Duke and Trevor English were not present for the vote.
Afterwards, Doug Mayer sent an angry email to council and the media.
“Despite a clear message from the members of our neighbourhood, you four supported the rezoning application. Shame on you,” he wrote. “The wishes of the people that live in the neighbourhood should have more weight than the opinions of people that do not live in the neighbourhood. Clearly you don’t care about our concerns at all. Shame on all four of you. You will not get my vote in the next election.”
The application still needs to pass final adoption by council, but that is generally a formality.