Proposed composting business wants ALR inclusion

A local entrepreneur wishing to start a composting business in a rural area outside Cranbrook is applying to the province to have his property included into the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR).

The issue was referred to the RDEK during a monthly board meeting last week, but the local governing body voted to deny support from the proposal by Kris Pickering and Earthrite Industries.

The Agricultural Land Commission makes the final decision on whether the 11.6-hectare piece of property is included into the ALR, says RDEK board chair Rob Gay.

If the property is included in the ALR and receives farm classification through BC Assessment, the company will be permitted to sell up to 50 per cent of the compost produced, according to an RDEK staff report.

Pickering had previously applied to have his property — located just off Highway 3/93 between Cranbrook and Wardner — rezoned to allow a commercial composting facility, however, that was turned down by the board in March after a public backlash led by neighbours concerned about odour and increased traffic.

Neighbour Mike Haslam, who has property near the proposed Earthrite Industries composting facility, spoke of his concerns and asked the board what kind of enforcement policies are in place if operations on the property contravene RDEK bylaws.

In June, Gay said the RDEK received a letter that Earthrite was planning on building a composting facility as part of their farm operations, which reopened the scars from the rezoning process.

There’s a complex web of regulatory rules to navigate between local land use planning and the ALR, Gay said.

If a hobby farm within the ALR generates a certain amount of revenue, it can be eligible to receive ‘Farm Status’ from the BC Assessment Authority and receives a special tax rate. If an ALR property has farm status, it can take 50 per cent of the compost material it generates and use it for agricultural purposes and sell the other 50 per cent commercially.

Gay says the RDEK is in the process of receiving a legal opinion on whether the proposed business can accept composting material from the public, either through a sale or donation, or if the composted material has to be generated by farming operations on the land.

The subject property had previously been included in the ALR until 2009, when the previous owners applied to have it removed.

“Years ago, when the previous owners had it, they hired and agrologist to study the land because they wanted it out of the ALR and the agrologist at the time, and his report is public information, said this is not farmland,” said Gay.

“But when he did his report, he did it on a larger piece of land, because it’s been subdivided now, so I guess you could say that report wasn’t focused on this property. The agrologist and the Agricultural Land Commission agreed that it was not suitable for agriculture and it was removed in 2009, so we’ve already been down that road.”