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Rift grows over Pemberton subdivision

Councillor sees development as unfeasible



A Pemberton farmer has come up against the Village of Pemberton council as he attempts to divide his property into a series of “hobby farms.”

Bob Menzel, a resident of 7476 Prospect in Pemberton, has twice brought applications to the VOP to divide a 28-acre property on Walnut Street into separate farms where individual owners could set up homes and till their own land.

However, because the property is within VOP boundaries and in the Agricultural Land Reserve, some at the VOP are apprehensive about subdividing the land. The property in question lies south of Two-Mile Creek, land that is within the ALR, a provincial zone in which agriculture is a priority use.  

That has left Menzel, who expects to retire soon, in a bit of a huff.

“Council is using us as pawns,” he said, referring to both himself and Susan Perry, who also lives on the property.

“We're the pawns and we can't hang on forever, we can't farm, can't get the best use out of the property the way we could if it was farmed.”

Councillor Jennie Helmer, a farmer herself, argued with Councillor David MacKenzie at the June 3 council meeting over the application, which if approved would be the first step in having the land removed from the ALR.

Speaking to Pique Newsmagazine , Helmer added that the proposal, which would see the land divided into one-acre farms, is unfeasible in its current form.

“It's my feeling that every piece of that reserve is important and we should be doing everything to keep it,” she said. “Not just keep it and let it lay, but make it so that people want to farm and can farm, and instead of taking more land out, I think we should be doing quite the reverse and adding land to it.”

Menzel’s vision, based on his second proposal, is to divide his land into nine separate plots that could each have a small house with a greenhouse on their bottom floor, as well as hobby farms outside the houses. He also hopes to establish a farmers’ market on the property.

“Basically it’s a small farm (where) you can grow your own vegetables and still have a little left to market,” he said. “We’re basically having trouble farming the way it is, it needs to be… hand-farmed more so than by machinery.”

For Helmer, however, that vision won’t work.

“A home on a one-acre farm takes up close to half that space,” she said. “To actually farm a piece of land, a one-acre space with a home on it, is not feasible, and as a farmer I know this.

“No farmer will do that, and the capital to start farming is huge, you either need to inherit it or buy land cheaply. These are not cheap lots.”

She isn’t the only one who has shown opposition to the subdivision. The proposal was also studied by the VOP’s Advisory Land Use Committee, which looked at a number of factors in shutting down the proposal, including that an acre is not enough to farm and raising questions about whether the land could be farmed to begin with.

Despite the opposition to his vision, Menzel believes that most of village council supports the subdivision.

Two councillors whom he said supported the subdivision were absent for the June 3 meeting. Two of the three council members at the meeting (Helmer and Mayor Jordan Sturdy) voted that the latest proposal not be forwarded to the Agricultural Land Commission for review and that the village not consider the subdivision at this time, though Sturdy said he would like to see development on the property.

Despite a lack of success thus far, Menzel is persisting, saying that he has already put over $100,000 towards subdividing the land.

“We just can’t hang on anymore and we had a good thing going,” he said.

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