While Kitty Sharkey tends her Nigerian dwarf goats and her ducks, chickens and rabbits in her Oakland, California backyard, a Vancouver Island urban homesteader faces legal action if he doesn’t tear up his small farm.
Dirk Becker’s Compassion Farm has run afoul of Lantzville, British Columbia’s bylaw against farming within municipal limits. One of the 3,661 people counted in the last (2006) census objected to his selling vegetables grown on his 2.5-acre lot in the seaside community.
Becker and his partner, Nicole Shaw, received notice from the District of Lantzville in November 2010 that they had 90 days to cease all agricultural activity. To put this in context, they live on a road most city dwellers would consider semi-rural. Three doors down from them, a neighbor raises cows. At the end of the road, horses graze in pastures. So to be told they could not grow vegetables and fruit struck Nicole as a “head shaker.”
Making the land live again
Becker and Shaw have restored a damaged piece of land. A Nanaimo Web site states, “the previous owner used an excavator and dump truck to mine and scrape the land bare. He had a soil screener set up on the property, selling the soil, then sand, then gravel, which resulted in lowering the level of this property by about four feet. When Dirk assumed ownership of this property, all that remained was gravel. There were no worms, no grasshoppers, no birds, no butterflies; essentially – no living creatures!”
According to a CBC report, the District of Lantzville “is working on a new bylaw that would allow for-profit farming on residential property.” Becker could apply for a temporary permit until the new bylaw is in place. There is no guarantee it would be awarded, and Becker has a number of objections to doing so. He wants the council to appoint a committee to develop the bylaw, and he expresses concern the bylaw may be too restrictive. He also worries the Temporary Use Permit could be withdrawn at any time.
In March 2011, on the District of Lantzville Web site, Mayor Colin Haime posted a message to residents. He cautioned, “Although Council has been receiving a variety of communications on the numerous benefits of local food production, there have also been concerns expressed as it relates to the increase of traffic, odour (stemming from the organic materials used in these instances), importation of foreign materials, potential contaminants, potential well contamination, water use and pests. Further, the question has been raised as to why intensive agricultural activities should be allowed within residential areas when there is significant agriculturally zoned properties that are not currently being used for agricultural activities.”
Photo of Compassion Farm, used by permission
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