The Local Harvest Market To Be Shut Down By City Hall in Chilliwack, BC

Categories: On The Farm

I love The Local Harvest Market, I too would be ashamed of our city if they shut the market down while they work to build something great. Our community needs consciously minded farm markets and farmers alike. The market is a place where I can purchase nourishing, wholesome food that is safe to feed my family. It is a place in our Valley that is practicing Environmental stewardship for growing food while growing and providing a 'Farm Experience' for our city and neighbouring cities alike. Small family farms have a hard enough time competing in the competitive conventional food marketplace. The Local Harvest Market is a community hub - a place to meet up with your friends, bring your children, or just get a taste of local- small town life in the midst of our wonderful 'big' city. I do hope we can help them thrive and we can support them to achieve great things!

A beloved local produce vendor is under threat as city council will consider posting a "no occupancy" notice on The Local Harvest Market after consideration at Tuesday's meeting.

But Dan and Helen Oostenbrink, owners of the 30-acre Lickman Road farm and market in operation since 2013, say they've hired an architect, building plans are in place, and all they need is approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) and a permit from city hall to go ahead with a new building.

"Obviously it's going to be devastating if we have to shut down, not just for us but for the consumers as well who in large part have come to rely on quality food that is grown on land that surrounds their homes," Dan Oostenbrink told the Times Friday.

When it first opened, a number of building improvements were made without proper building permits or formal approval from the ALC, according to city hall.

Part of the problem, Oostenbrink says, is that most agriculture land is allowed to have a retail space up to 300 square metres that sells at least 50 per cent of product grown on the farm.

When Oostenbrink applied to the ALC, what he didn't know is the city's agriculture lowlands zone, which they are in, meant that was actually 100 square metres.

So they applied for non-farm use, received it, and have been selling locally grown produce ever since.

Things were made more complicated, however, when Anita's Organic moved their retail sales into The Local Harvest and they opened a bistro.

Last summer, the city put a notice on title due to contraventions of building rules and bylaws, ordering them out by October.

On Friday, Chilliwack city hall issued a press release in advance of the posting of the full Feb. 2 city council agenda outlining the decision coming at that meeting.

"City council is often tasked with the difficult duty of enforcing provincial legislation and city bylaws in a fair and equitable manner," the press release starts. "On Feb. 2, 2016, council will consider posting a 'No Occupancy' notice on The Local Harvest Market, at 7696 Lickman Rd., as the business has not come into compliance with the public safety provisions of the BC Building Code and city bylaws."

"The property owner has long been aware of all deficiencies and the steps necessary to come into compliance," the press release continues.

In response to accusations from some that he should just follow the rules, Oostenbrink agrees.

"I don't think we should be above the law," he said. "What people don't realize, is that due diligence has been happening right from the get-go to make this happen.

"I just hope that city staff is telling council that we are actively pursuing the construction of a new building, and currently the process is back to the ALC."

What further poses questions for Oostenbrink is that despite all the attention from city hall, neither the mayor nor a single city councillor has visited to see what he is doing.

"We happen to be doing what I believe to be a good thing for the community and I've yet to receive a visit [from city councillors] to say, you know, let's take a look at what you guys are doing."

City council decided on the "no occupancy" notice at its Feb. 2 meeting at 3 p.m. We'll keep you updated.  

If you feel you could contribute kindly to their cause, feel free to call the city with a mention of where your from, feel free to mention that the story has gone viral and global, and that you would love to see a city that supports its local farmers markets:  

City of Chilliwack  
City Hall 
Address: 8550 Young Rd, Chilliwack, BC V2P 8A4, Canada

via ChilliWackTimes

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