Angst grows over urban garden committee selections

A committee struck to address urban agriculture and its place in the District of Lantzville is causing a growing concern for some residents regarding who is on the committee and how they were appointed.

A committee formed to address urban agriculture and its place in the District of Lantzville is causing a growing concern for some residents.

Dirk Becker, owner of Compassion Farm, which was the subject of a neighbour’s complaint last fall, said he is concerned over the selections from an application process that determined the seven committee members.

“The purpose of a committee like this is to bring forward recommendations from an unbiased and collaborative place,” said Becker, who did not submit an application to be on the committee. “Many people that we know in the community of Lantzville know the people on the committee and say that it is heavily stacked against urban agriculture. There’s no one on there for farming, there is no one on there for agriculture in any way, shape or form.”

There are, Becker said, three people who are on the committee who have openly expressed “behaviour shown to be anti-agriculture, anti-farming, anti Dirk and Nicole [Becker’s partner at Compassion Farm] and anti-Compassion Farm.”

But Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime defended the committee selections, saying the people on the committee are the ones who showed the most interest and availability.

“With respect to the council representatives, the ones selected were the ones who expressed interest and availability,” said Haime. “The committee as a whole is being asked to comment on a bylaw that applies throughout Lantzville. They’re not being ask to comment on a bylaw that applies to one specific property and so with respect to that, the membership of the committee and the participation is open to all members of the community.”

Andrew Mostad, spokesman for Friends of Urban Farming Lantzville, which says it is neutral in the hotly contested issue, said he agrees the committee has members that might not be able to remain objective and further the goal of creating an agreeable bylaw through compromise.

“From what it looks like to me, we have at least two members who are already intimately involved in this in such a way that creates a conflict of interest,” said Mostad, who was named to the committee. “So I can’t see how the entire committee can be objective about this.”

Mostad singled out Coun. Doug Parkhurst, who was involved in the initial complaint about Compassion Farm, and James Brash, who filed the original complaint. Coun. Warren Griffey, in a letter published in the News Bulletin last month, has also expressed his personal opinion on Compassion Farm.

Mostad said, as a representative of FUAL, he is on the committee because “we want to see urban agriculture in Lantzville but we want to see it in such a way that it is regulated and doesn’t impact negatively on neighbours and their property.”

Haime said that he believes that the individuals chosen for the committee have the “ability and the desire to come up and work toward a compromise or consensus in terms of further the idea of growing food within the district.”

David Elgie, a retired energy executive, Angela Giuriato, a landscape designer, and John Halliwell were also selected for the committee, which has its first meeting Aug. 15 and is expected to report back to council in mid-September with recommendations to help form a zoning bylaw to address the issue.

Rob Roycroft of Roycroft Consulting will facilitate the meetings.