SLRD adapts to new agri-tourism rules 

Some concerns remain around noise, enforcement

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - WEDDING CLARITY  New provincial rules around agri-tourism have given clarity to the burgeoning destination wedding industry.
  • File photo
  • WEDDING CLARITY New provincial rules around agri-tourism have given clarity to the burgeoning destination wedding industry.

With new provincial regulations in place around agri-tourism and non-farm-use commercial events, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is moving to adapt its zoning bylaws.

At its Aug. 24 meeting, the SLRD board directed staff to draft new zoning bylaws for areas A through D, as well as a policy that will guide commercial events taking place in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

"We're excited. The SLRD board and staff did a ton of work lobbying the province, lobbying the minister responsible, and we feel like our work provided a positive result," SLRD chair Jack Crompton said.

"It will mean that there is clarity for farmers offering wedding services on their properties."

The provincial changes redefine agri-tourism, and include new definitions such as "gathering for an event" that address non agri-tourism commercial events (such as weddings).

The changes also add new regulations for agri-tourism and "gathering for an event" uses, such as limiting events to 150 people; limiting them to no longer than 24 hours in duration; limiting each farm to no more than 10 events per year; prohibiting permanent facilities from being constructed for events; and containing parking for the event on the farm.

But some in the Pemberton valley still have concerns about the noise and other impacts from such events, and how bylaws will be enforced.

"The weddings that were up here this weekend — I think there was three or four — and the music was just blasting out for miles around, echoing off the valley walls," said Anna Helmer, of Helmer's Organic Farm.

"In a city you'd never be able to impact people for miles around with your activities, and I'm not sure why suddenly it's OK up here... It's just really disheartening that government seems to be backing it up."

Helmer said having proper enforcement in place, and proof that it actually works, would be an improvement.

"I think we should be allowed to augment our farming income, (but) it's a dodgy business sometimes," she said.

"Right now it's just a free-for-all... We're living here, and we can see our chickens stop laying, and cows abort their fetuses with loud thumping music. Nobody that raises animals plays loud thumping music for 24 hours."

A moratorium on bylaw enforcement related to commercial events remains in place while the SLRD works out implementation details, but Crompton noted that, with the SLRD's new Area C noise and nuisance bylaw in effect, the RCMP are able to respond to noise complaints after hours.

"One of the benefits of a noise and nuisance bylaw is it provides tools that the RCMP didn't have before," he said.

"This bylaw has been provided to the RCMP, so in response to the concerns that there will be no one there to enforce these bylaws after hours, the police can enforce."

The SLRD estimates there are five to 10 properties hosting recurring commercial events around Pemberton, and a number of others operating on a less frequent basis.

A report commissioned by the Pemberton Chamber of Commerce last summer found that the burgeoning destination wedding industry provides huge economic upside to the region.

In 2014, destination weddings in Pemberton resulted in $5.1 million in direct annual expenditures and approximately $8.5 million in total economic output, the report said.

The 80 weddings held in 2014 also provided an estimated 77 jobs to the community.

Chamber president Garth Phare said the chamber was "ecstatic" about the provincial changes.

"It gives the operators some clarity and some guidelines to work within," he said.

"It certainly is an economic generator for our community, so yeah, we're really pleased."

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