Following a frightening incident for a West Kelowna woman and her children last summer, West Kelowna council has moved to address the issue of temporary agricultural worker housing.
Council has directed city staff to start drafting zoning bylaw amendments to deal with the issue after a female farm worker, believed to be high on drugs, pushed her way into the woman’s Scharf Road home and was later apprehended by police hiding in a shed on the property,
In August, the husband of the woman who had to fend off the intruder appeared before council to plead for help for him and his neighbours, long frustrated by the situation, and for the workers, who he said are being forced to squalid and unsafe conditions.
Collin Crabbe showed council photos of run down accommodations, outside toilets, and other appalling living conditions he said the foreign farm workers are being subjected to on a farm near his home. He also alleged exploitation of the farm workers and an increase in crime in the neighbourhood.
“Something needs to be done,” said Crabbe, who said his wife had to hide their children in a bedroom while she fought off the female intruder, before the woman fled the house. The intruder was later identified as a temporary worker at the nearby farm and was believed to be high on drugs at the time of the incident.
Last year a petition signed by 70 people in Crabbe’s neighbourhood asked council to take action on the sub-standard farm worker housing.
In directing staff to act, council expressed concerns about ongoing alleged criminal activity and bylaw infractions related to the inadequate housing on the Scharf Road farm. In response, staff provided a report with options for council to consider to help address the concerns.
Council has now asked staff to:
• Investigate further regulations in the zoning bylaw for the use of tents and recreational vehicles as acceptable forms of temporary agricultural worker dwellings.
• Require that all agricultural worker dwellings have hygienic washroom and bathing facilities.
• Require that all agricultural worker dwellings follow occupant loads in the British Columbia Building Code and gather input from the industry on that point.
• Investigate further mechanisms for proponents of temporary agricultural worker dwellings to notify the city of their intent to operate.
• Investigate the possibility of requiring business licenses for the operation of agricultural worker dwellings and increasing the fine for a contravention of the bylaw.
• Investigate a council policy for statutory declarations and/or restrictive covenants associated with temporary agricultural workers.
City staff also plan to consult with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Advisory Commission and the local agricultural industry when drafting new regulations.
Public consultation will also be undertaken.