Variances approved for Summerland mushroom farm

Variances were required for buildings on Garnett Valley Road property

Summerland council has approved variances for a mushroom growing facility on an agricultural property on Garnet Valley Road.

The variances reduce the minimum side setback, reduce the minimum lot area for an additional building for farm help and increase the maximum height of an additional building for farm help.

The variances were required to legitimize buildings and structures for the farm and an onsite dwelling.

Kevin Taylor, a planner with the municipality, said the municipality’s zoning bylaw far exceeds the maximum setbacks recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Summerland’s zoning bylaw has minimum interior side setbacks of 30.0 metres for mushroom facilities, greenhouses and other farm buildings, while the ministry guidelines have a maximum setback of 7.5 metres for mushroom barns, 4.5 metres for greenhouses and 15 metres for buildings with fans.

“Appropriate setback distances can help prevent nuisance conflicts, protect natural resources and safeguard human health,” he said in a report to council. “On the other hand, excessive setbacks can present challenges to farming operations. The ideal is to strike a balance by implementing setbacks that are large enough to reduce conflict between uses while still being reasonable for farm operations.”

While traditional mushroom farms typically use manure-based substrate, What The Fungus uses an organic wood-based substrate. The smell from this operation is considered less noticeable and less offensive than the smell from traditional mushroom farms, Taylor said.

Brad Besler, a neighbour of the property, said the existing setbacks should be observed.

“Respect the 30-metre setback for mushroom growing facilities,” he said. “The rules and bylaws are in place for a reason.”

Coun. Erin Carlson said if the 30-metre setback was to be observed, there would be no place to put the mushroom growing facility on the property.

The request for the variances was approved unanimously.

Coun. Marty Van Alphen was not present at the meeting.

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