Lantzville's agriculture bylaw moves forward

Lantzville officials have taken the first step toward allowing people to profit from urban gardens, but one advocacy group is concerned the rules are too restrictive.

The District of Lantzville has unanimously passed the first reading of zoning bylaw changes that will make market gardening a legitimate home-based business.

Residents would be allowed to commercially produce crops like fruits, vegetables, trees and flowers, but there would be restrictions ranging from bans on noise-scaring devices to greenhouses with artificial lighting and outdoor equipment storage. Until now it was illegal to grow and sell surplus food from residential lots.

The move is being called a “step forward” and a major breakthrough, but the Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville want changes in the bylaw to remove potential cost barriers to large landowners, including the requirement to create a buffer.

Other concerns are that the term ‘market garden’ diminishes the importance of urban agriculture and takes the involvement of small animals out of food production, and rules around outdoor equipment storage will require construction of building structures, which is “unreasonable and costly.”

“We are saying let’s be proactive and not hasty and cover off all these bases. Are we encouraging people to grow food on residential lands with this bylaw or are we inhibiting it [in some circumstances]?” said Jaime Wallace, spokesman for FUAL.

Lantzville officials resurrected public debate about urban agriculture last June, after agreeing to consider allowing horticulture as a home-based business. The community has been grappling with ways to deal with urban farming since 2010, when the municipality and Compassion Farm went head-to-head over a commercial food operation.

Wallace believes now is the time to make any changes to the new bylaw, because once passed no one is going to be “too encouraged to revisit it,” he said.

Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong said there has been extensive negotiations with different interest groups like FUAL already and while nothing is set in stone, he believes this bylaw “meets the requirements of the community in a much broader sense.”

An open house on the bylaw will take place this March.

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