An application to allow a small restaurant in a fruit stand near Oliver will be sent to the Agricultural Land Commission.
The property is developed as a fruit stand and farm on a 4.1-hectare property off Highway 97. The property is within the Agricultural Land Reserve.
A commercial kitchen was constructed on the property, without permit, in the area designated for storage, packing, storage rooms and washrooms.
In April, a stop work order was issued for a cafe and sign on the property.
The zoning bylaw for the area allows retail sales of farm and off-farm products as a secondary use on property zoned Agriculture One. An eating and drinking establishment is not permitted in this zoning.
In a report to the regional district, JoAnn Peachey, a planner, said there are concerns about allowing commercial operations on agricultural land.
“Commercial uses within an agricultural area can pose potential land use conflicts with agricultural operations,” the report stated. “By allowing additional uses to occur, the primary use of the property or surrounding properties as agricultural land can become threatened through the introduction of competing interests. These can be in the form of increased complaints from neighbours regarding traffic, noise or trespassing on adjacent farms.”
However, members of the regional district board had mixed opinions about allowing the restaurant.
“Restaurants aren’t farms. They are a different sort of business,” said Dir. George Bush.
Coun. Doug Holmes of Summerland said restaurants and similar businesses belong in communities, not in farm areas.
“You’re gutting your town by putting restaurants in rural areas,” he said.
Penticton mayor John Vassilaki said the Agricultural Land Commission needs to move forward when considering applications such as this one.
“We’re making it difficult for farmers because they have such a small amount of profit,” he said.
Elsewhere in the regional district, there are cases where restaurants are in place on fruit stands on agricultural land. However, in these cases, the approval was granted in an earlier time.
Corine Gain, director of development services with the municipality of Summerland, said a restaurant operating at a fruit stand in Summerland was approved in the past and now continues to operate.
There are other similar cases throughout the Okanagan Valley.
She said in recent years, the land commission has become more restrictive in approving restaurants at fruit stands on land within the land reserve.
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