Despite some concerns, an 84-acre farm on Genoa Bay Road has been given the green light by the Municipality of North Cowichan to continue its agri-tourism activities, but at a reduced frequency.
Bird’s Eye Cove Farm, which is used for a wide variety of farming purposes, also hosts numerous activities each year that draw people to the award-winning property, including weddings, farm tours, “pizza nights” using farm products, seasonal events and community farm days.
The agricultural property is located in North Cowichan and the Agricultural Land Commission has decided to allow the farm to continue its non-farm operations under the condition that it host no more than 30 events each year, if North Cowichan agreed.
Farm owner Heather Skoretz explained in letter that the primary activity on the farm is agriculture, including the marketing of the farm products that are used and sold at its events.
“My biggest concern is for the future of my farm, as well as other farms,” she said.
“We must have innovation or the next generation will not survive on the farm. My farm should be recognized as a model for doing it right under the rules of the ALC.”
As required, Skoretz also had to apply to the municipality to continue hosting events.
But a staff report indicated that a number of buildings on the property were constructed without building permits from North Cowichan.
As well, while a number of delegations at the public hearing hosted by North Cowichan on Feb. 7 supported the application, some concerns were raised by neighbours of the farm, including excessive noise in the rural area with the agri-tourism events, and increased traffic on the area’s small, winding roads.
“Respect has to be shown to the neighbours,” said Sheila Kitson, who owns property close to the farm.
“We bought our property in 1986 because we liked the rural atmosphere and the ocean, and the farm was not an event farm at the time. However, the owners have said they will take measures to deal with the noise problem and that’s a good move.”
Asked by council what municipal staff intended to do to bring the farm’s buildings and operations into compliance with North Cowichan’s bylaws, development director Scott Mack said the municipality first seeks voluntary compliance rather than using “heavy-handed” options.
“We have had to take more serious actions in some cases, but every situation is unique and we try to work with owners to have them fix the issues,” he said.
“Staff are recommending that we approve this application because we believe it is a supportable and an acceptable land use for that property.”
Coun. Maeve Maguire said it’s clear that the farm and its activities have captured the hearts and minds of many in the area.
“But there are still some issues to be ironed out,” she said.