By ROY WOOD
Citing provincial “right to farm” legislation, Oliver council on Tuesday told a Meadows Drive resident that he’ll just have to live with the noise from propane cannons used to keep birds from eating crops at nearby vineyards.
Bryan Sandilands told council in a recent letter (published earlier on ODN) that an orchard near him home at Zinfandel and Meadows Drive was converted from tree fruits to grapes. A similar conversion occurred on a farm across the river from his home.
Both vineyards now employ so-called “bird bangers” to discourage avian consumption of their crops. “These cannons are extremely loud and are clearly audible indoors as well,” he wrote.
Sandilands asked council take action, possibly including regulating the hours of operation or encouraging the use of netting to protect crops rather than noisemakers.
Corporate officer Diane Vaykovich offered to write a letter from the town asking the vineyard owners for consideration in the matter. Water Councillor Andre Miller suggested Sandilands ask the owners to point their cannons away from his home to possibly mitigate the noise.
But members of council were clear that there is little if anything the town can do to regulate agricultural activities inside the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).
“Our hands are tied by the (provincial) Right to Farm legislation,” said Mayor Ron Hovanes.
Councillor Larry Schwartzenberger said that he, too, hears the bird bangers along with noisy air circulation fans on vineyards inside and nearby the town limits. But “for us to make a bylaw that goes against the provincial legislation … (it) would just get thrown out.”
Under the Farm Practices Protection (Right to Farm) Act, farmers in the ALR are permitted to do pretty well anything deemed to be normal farming practice. And municipal and regional governments are powerless to regulate against noise, odors or other nuisances.
Hovanes pointed out that Oliver “is an agricultural community” and town residents have been lucky that no one has decided to open a more offensive agricultural operation, like a pig farm, in or near the town.
Miller, himself a vineyard owner, pointed out to Sandilands that the noise makers are by far the most effective method for keeping birds, particularly starlings, from eating his grapes. He said his five bangers begin at 8 am and are programmed to operate for 12 hours.
Water Councillor Rick Machial, also a farmer, noted that the propane cannons are also useful at deterring other pests, including bears. He said six bears were spotted in his orchard and bangers were employed well into the evening hours to chase them away.
He was sympathetic to Sandilands’ concerns and suggested that “communication is the key” for farmers and residents to live together. However, he said, “Farmers have a right to make a living.”