Two Oliver-area farms have been given the go-ahead from the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) to maintain temporary agricultural worker housing on their properties for the next three years.
At the October 5 RDOS Board of Directors meeting, temporary use permits (TUP) were approved for Sagebrush Nursery at 7226 Island road and Nature’s Fruit Basket at 5535 Highway 97 that will bring the temporary housing on their properties into compliance.
Both Sagebrush Nursery and Nature’s Fruit Basket sit on large enough parcels of land to allow for secondary and accessory buildings on their property, based both on their Agriculture One (AG1) zoning and BC Assessment’s designation as part “farm,” part “residential.”
Nature’s Fruit Basket’s current temporary worker accommodations have been approved by the Agricultural Land Commission and are supported by the Official Community Plan for Electoral Area C, but they have been under a Stop Work Notice since last winter because they were built without a permit.
Now that their TUP has been approved due to the dwelling’s temporary foundation, small size, and siting in an area of their property that isn’t used for active agricultural production, the property owner can bring their seasonal worker housing into compliance with the RDOS’s development.
Both applicants pointed to the ongoing affordable housing shortage as a threat to the continued maintenance of their farms, which is hardly a surprise when small businesses across the Okanagan have struggled to maintain healthy staff numbers and temporary seasonal workers are of particular importance to the agricultural sector.
In the case of Sagebrush Nursery, which already has a greenhouse and chicken coop on the property along with its active agricultural land, the TUP will allow them to apply for temporary farm workers for the first time during the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program’s Fall 2023 application period.
The TUP validity periods will lapse after three years, at which time the property owners will be eligible to apply for an extension.