View of the BX Ranchlands. Photo credit: Vernon Morningstar files

BX Ranchlands sale on hold

GVAC recommends deferring potential sale of remaining property for one year

The potential sale of a remaining portion of BX Ranchlands property may be deferred for one calendar year.

Greater Vernon Advisory Committee members will make that recommendation to the Regional District of North Okanagan board following Thursday’s GVAC meeting.

The BX Ranchlands Task Force, under the guise of the BX-Swan Lake Community Association, has been advocating for the site to be preserved as a working farm, habitat conservation area and a focal point to celebrate and raise awareness, through public education initiatives, of agriculture’s significance to the area.

The future land use has been disputed at times since the land parcel was purchased in 2016 for $2.3 million, with the idea being 36 acres could be kept as park and the remainder sold for development to recoup the land investment costs.

The 37-acre linear park between BX Ranch, Mutrie and East Vernon roads, is moving forward and will become a park accessible to the public by the spring.

The task force is trying to save the remainder of the land to turn it into an agricultural park.

“We talked about the progress and GVAC voted recommending deferring and not pursuing sale of the property for one calendar year,” said director Bob Fleming. “We want to have discussions on how the remaining land can be retained.”

If the land was to be sold, it would remain farmland as it sits withing the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The RDNO board has already approved the rezoning of the BX Ranchlands from country residential to large holding, which means the land would be agricultural and residential subdivision development would not be allowed unless there was a further rezoning process considered by the regional district.

The deferral is good news for the task force.

“It’s a positive step,” said spokesperson Paul Williamson. “It’s better than selling it right now. Ideally, we could keep it as a subregional park but because of the structure of the current system and changeover of parks, it complicates matters.”

Williamson said the agricultural park concept exists in other B.C. communities such as Saanich, Salt Spring Island, Pemberton and most recently the Ceres Circle Farm in Kelowna, a 37-acre sheep farm gifted by its owner and currently under transition to a land trust.

Besides preserving historic farmlands, Williamson said those initiatives have found ways to generate revenue from tourism and access to public land use and agriculture programs.

The task force is still looking for help and input from the community.

A public meeting on the topic will be held Thursday, Jan. 25, at 7 p.m. at the BX Swan Lake Fire Hall on Silver Star Road.