The Village of Pemberton is reconsidering a controversial proposal to subdivide an agricultural property into hobby farms.
Bob Menzel, who co-owns the Walnut Street property with Susan Perry, hopes to divide the approximately 30-acre property into nine separate units and have 20 acres left over as a common farming area, where people will be able to grow their own produce.
The VOP decided at its June 3 meeting not to consider the subdivision, but Councillor Mark Blundell, who supports the subdivision and was not present at the last meeting, asked to have it reconsidered at the following meeting on June 17.
The previous motion has now been rescinded, and a new motion was made to refer the subdivision to a “committee of the whole,” a standing committee of the village council that addresses issues such as governance, policy and communications, but no specific date has been set for it, according to Mayor Jordan Sturdy.
Under Menzel’s vision, each of the nine units will have homes with greenhouses on their bottom floors, where people will be able to grow their own vegetables and anything else they choose. He also hopes to have a farmers’ market on the property.
“We’re getting back to probably the hippie days,” he said. “A lot of these people that farm in the valley right now have people living in shacks all over their property, this way it’ll be a little farming unit.”
In order to do that, the land will have to be subdivided to create the units, and Menzel has repeatedly come up against the VOP trying to make that happen.
Some, like Councillor Jennie Helmer, feel the plan will remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), a provincial zone in which agriculture is a priority use.
Others, like Sturdy, feel the subdivision will not provide a feasible farming area.
“Try to imagine what you grow on half an acre, or three quarters of an acre that would allow you to produce consistently and provide a return that didn’t lose you money,” he said. “There’s only one thing you could do that I could think of and you only need a basement for that.”
Sturdy, a farmer himself, added that the problems with Menzel’s proposal don’t have to do solely with the idea that it could take land out of the ALR.
“It would remain in the ALR… but that’s not really the issue, the issue is the farmability of the property,” he said. “What currently has one house, if you put nine houses on it… it effectively becomes not viable in terms of any kind of farming operation.”
“I’ve got 50 acres of vegetables here, and I know how hard it is to make a living off of 50 acres, let alone on one.”
Menzel, however, will continue pressing to get the subdivision. He said the new properties, if approved, will be kept as “green as possible” with geothermal heating and other features.
“I just want people to get back on the land like I grew up,” he said.