Council to hear from public on farming proposal

Kelowna council says it realizes there's some controversy in the local farming community over proposed changes to proposed policy for housing temporary farm workers.

The policy puts rules in place that restrict farms to 40 workers or less, and says that they need to be housed in accomodations that don't exceed 0.2 hectares on farm that's at least 3.8 ha in size.

Councillor Brad Sieben voted against the plan, saying he wants more consultation with groups who feel they haven't been adequately consulted with.

"There's a bunch of information we don't have, we don't understand the magnitude of what's happening with these farms, we don't have numbers on that," he said.

"From my perspective, I want to make sure that whether it's prior to public hearing, or if it's deferred now, to go and get that feedback and then report back."

But colleague Gail Given says the best feedback can come from farmers, at a public hearing.

"I don't anticipate it will be a quiet meeting, I anticipate there will be a lot of people very passionate about the matter. But that conversation will be held in public, and I think there's great value in that. So I personally have enough information to support this moving forward to that public process."

Mayor Colin Basran says it's tough to find a balance between being supportive, and micro managing.

"At the end of the day, who do people call when they end up with potentially 200 workers next to them in 20 ATCO trailers? They call us upset, and say 'how did you allow that to happen?'" he said.

"So I can appreciate there are some people in this room who say you don't belong telling us farmers how to do our job. And I can appreciate that . But we also have to deal with the other 100,000 people in our community who say why did you allow that to happen? So we're trying to find.a balance here."

Council voted 7-2 to move the proposed changes ahead to a public forum, which will happen on May 2.