A contentious set of bylaws that apply to the Pemberton Fringe—an area of 110 properties surrounding the Village of Pemberton that sit on Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) property—were presented to the public at a well-attended April 11 public information meeting held at the Pemberton Community Centre.
The bylaws relate to all properties within the ALR throughout Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Electoral Area C, including the Pemberton Fringe.
About 200 people were on hand to hear from senior Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) planner Ian Holl, regional planner Kamelli Mark, ALC compliance officer Roland Persinovic, and Kim Sutherland, an agrologist with the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
According to Brenda McLeod, who lives and farms in the affected area and is opposed to the bylaws, the meeting was a case of information overload, with many feeling overwhelmed.
"The process that they followed sort of silenced the masses, and I guess that may have been the intention," said McLeod. "A lot of people said after, that not a lot of people spoke. I think what happened was that people were sort of overwhelmed by information by the time it got to the question and answer period of the meeting."
A major sticking point for McLeod and others is what will and will not be allowed in terms of home-based businesses. The Fringe is home to many mom-and-pop operations and some fear that their businesses will be in contravention of the new bylaw. The new bylaw is being proposed in an effort to make SLRD bylaws better reflect ALC rules and regulations—which already technically apply to the area.
According to the SLRD, the new bylaw has been designed to be permissive and allow all businesses that fall in line with ALC regulations.
In its presentation, the SLRD described its home-business policy: "The agricultural home based business use is a limited and small scale craft carried on for remuneration, and may include a home office.
"Agricultural home based business does not include industrial uses, commercial production and/or retail of marihuana or cannabinoids, any kind of food or drink service establishment, or vehicle or equipment repair."
The presentation goes on to define "craft" as an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.
According to McLeod, the restrictions are problematic for the future of the area, as the area is home to many hobby farmers who also might make income from other means. "If we want to save farmland, it's important to have people who are stewarding and taking care of the land. ... If you restrict people to death, you force them not to want to live in the area," she said.
The bylaws also propose a maximum dwelling size—350-square-metres—and siting restrictions, and proposes the minimum parcel size for new subdivisions be increased, from two hectares to 20 ha. This move is encouraged by the ALC, which sees it as a way to discourage residential use of farmland.
Anna Helmer, a potato farmer and author, said that she thought the information meeting went well.
"I could tell they did a lot to put it together in a way that made people feel heard and at the same time not let it get out of hand," she said.
Helmer welcomes the new rules, especially when it comes to siting.
The new rules will require that there be a maximum setback from the front parcel line to the rear of the house of 75 metres.
"We have been asking for that for eight years now. We've been saying farmland is better protected if you don't put a house in the middle of the field," she said.
Jack Crompton, chair of the SLRD, said the new rules are needed to bring the SLRD bylaws in line with ALC regulations.
When asked about businesses currently operating that might be in contravention of the new home-business regulations, he said, "those properties most likely would have been in contravention of the old bylaw as well," adding that enforcement will fall to the ALC.
"At the SLRD we are not experts in agriculture, and the legislation and regulation comes from the ALC, so we have decided to have them do the enforcement," he said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the bylaws apply to all properties within the ALR throughout SLRD Electoral Area C, not just the Pemberton Fringe.