This was my presentation to the Lantzville Council majority at the Urban Food Gardens Bylaw Public Hearing, October 24th, 2011 (of which approx. 200 people attended and about 60 presented).
This Urban Food Gardens bylaw does not support Urban Agriculture as a vital part of our community fabric. It is, by name, a gardening bylaw — not a farming bylaw. And as such, supports people gardening and selling some of their excess produce. It does not encourage residents to actually make a living through Urban Farming. Not only is this bylaw rife with double standards (allowing residents who do not sell their excess food to wantonly use water for car washing, driveway power washing and lawn sprinkling; using pesticides, herbicides and such) but also the process by which this bylaw came to be is woefully flawed.
There were two public open houses, where residents of our community took time out of their lives to give input into this bylaw. At the following council meeting, upon Councillor Denise Haime’s insistence, council went through the bylaw, item by item, giving their own opinions for the changes for staff to make, ignoring all of the verbal and written data that had been gathered and submitted during the open houses.
I attended the first Urban Food Gardens advisory committee with the intention to insist that our neighbour, Jim Brash, recuse himself from the committee on the grounds of him being in a conflict of interest. He has had a personal vendetta against us for years; this is simply his latest tactic. I was also there to ask Councillors Parkhurst and Griffey to do the same as they too are biased: Councillor Parkhurst being the first complainant against us for “Unsightly Premises” and Councillor Griffey writing a letter to a Nanaimo newspaper exclaiming how “horrified” he was to watch horse manure being unloaded on our property (while he stood on our neighbour’s property, Jim and Valleen Brash). To my dismay, and the dismay of many people who attended that night, we were not even allowed to speak.
This council has failed to abide by it’s own mission statement to: “Act in a professional manner at all times, having respect for:
- each other,
- the roles of Council and Staff,
- the decision making process,
- and the opinions of all of our constituents.”
This council majority has allowed a dispute between two neighbours to escalate into an ‘us and them’ division that did not have to happen. The conflict could have been nipped in the bud by mayor and council truly representing all their constituents rather than choosing a side at the outset. Each communication we received from the District focused on threats and punishment.
Our neighbour, Brash’s insistence that “this is a residential neighbourhood” hardly applies, because 1 hectare properties in Lantzville are allowed livestock. On Fernmar Road, we have forest across the street, and neighbours who have both cows and horses. One neighbour in particular often has cows right in the front yard beside their well-head. Why have they not been targeted? Could it be because Councillor Parkhurst is a friend who visits them several times per week?
This council majority, by moving the goal posts repeatedly and lacking transparency, rather than working towards a creative outcome that would benefit the majority of residents, council majority has demonstrated and caused: division, bias and vindictive behaviour; as well as subverting the democratic process by ignoring community input. It is time for the public servants to listen to the people.
(Three days after this Oct. 24th public hearing, at a special council meeting, the council majority decided not to “ram the bylaw through” at the suggestion of the fellow running against our current mayor in the upcoming election. The council majority said the reason why 85-90% of the speakers at the public hearing spoke against the bylaw was because “the public is misinformed”. So, even now, it seems council is still not listening.)
Among other things, Nicole is a farmer, feminist, artist, founding member of the Bowen Road Farmers’ Market, and volunteers her time to publish this magazine.