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Food security and local production were growing concerns at city held public hearing

No provision in new zoning bylaws and new OCP for urban agriculture zones in Prince Rupert
Food security and local production were topics at the April 12 public hearing to discuss new zoning bylaws and new OCP bylaws in Prince Rupert. A shipping container-style hydroponic growing unit in Whitehorse on July 26, 2020 is similar to one purchased by the Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society for local food production. (Photo: Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Food security and local production was a growing topic at the City of Prince Rupert public hearing on April 12 to discuss new city zoning bylaws and renewing the Official Community Plan Bylaw.

More than 27 participants connected through the community discussion held on ‘Zoom’ while members of the city council heard public feedback, concerns, and even some praise from meeting contributors.

Introducing the new OCP Bylaw, Rob Buchan of iPlan, the city planning consultants, said many new initiatives and policies are included in the documents that will support development in the city and surrounding residential neighbourhoods.

“The OCP is influenced by Prince Rupert’s 2030 vision and bases the predicted growth in population off of the Port of Prince Rupert’s development projections.”

“The OCP identifies or introduces background and framework for local food systems. This considers local ocean resources and identifies local foods that may be growing. It also speaks to facilitating local projects and programmes to expand the local food system and enables the development of a food strategy,” Buchan said.

Ken Shaw a registered professional agrologist who has been involved with food production in different roles for over 40 years said, while the new OCP bylaw is very visionary and sets the stage for many changes that are occurring in our society it does not reflect the vision of the 2030 plan.

“There’s no provision in the zoning categories for any kind of urban agriculture, whether it be small-scale market gardening, or even highly intensive production systems,” he said. “And there’s no recognition under the home business category for any kind of home [agriculture] business, which discriminates against economic development.”

COVID-19 has accelerated changes in our community such as food security and the over-dependence on a centralized long-distance system with heightened supply-chain fragility, he said.

There are multiple reasons for an urban agriculture strategy such as economic value, community resilience and food insecurity, Shaw said.

“You’re really only nine meals away from anarchy — the road gets shut down, we have a major earthquake, supply chains break for whatever reason and we’re in trouble. It can happen really quick,” the agricultural professional said.

Shaw said he knows many people in the region are not familiar with urban agriculture and the economic or social benefits.

“According to Statistics Canada we spend $387 bucks a month on food per person. That’s a $64 million business in Prince Rupert. Being a primary industry that has economic spin-offs in the range of $445 million per year. It’s a significant part of the economy. With certainty, all those dollars are flowing out of the community, and we’re not getting any of the spin-off benefits.”

Shaw said he has three suggestions to council regarding the gaps he sees in the new bylaws. The first one being the establishment of an urban agricultural zone permitting the growing of food, fruit and nut tree production, small livestock such as bees, chicken, vermiculture and other small meat animals; mushroom cultivation, agricultural retail sales, and aquaculture. The second suggestion being to allow home-based and small businesses to include agriculture as a permitted action. Thirdly, amending the allowable property fencing to deter deer which are the number one predator to growing food in this climate, he said.

Prince Rupert resident Christianne Chouinard said she originally moved to Crippen Cove where she could have a large garden and chickens, but needed to move into the city where she has lived for 30 years.

“In order to access fresh, healthy local food, I had to make connections with farmers in Terrace and Smithers because we have no local food production here.”

“I understand that the new community plan for Prince Rupert has a vision for food systems, but I’m disappointed to see that it’s not reflected in the new bylaws,” Chouniard said.

“Urban agriculture can be very productive, and many communities in Canada have made changes to support this,” she said. “To rely on food trucked away from 1000s of kilometres away is not a good idea. I’m asking city council that new bylaws facilitate urban agriculture.”

READ MORE: Hydroponic greenhouse to be rooted in Prince Rupert

READ MORE: Urban agriculture area planned for Prince Rupert downtown core

K-J Millar | Journalist
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