Balance to protect rural life

Mel R
The TNRD Report by Mel Rothenburger

Saying we must protect the rural lifestyle is a little like saying we need to protect the Maple Leaf, motherhood and apple pie.

It means different things to different people but, in general, most rural residents associate it with space, a sense of neighbourliness and relative freedom from bureaucracy. In return for fewer amenities, they expect lower taxes.

It seems like not much to ask for, but it’s not so simple to deliver.

At a recent TNRD board meeting at Sun Peaks a fascinating document was presented by regional planners on the district’s growth plan.

One of the cornerstones of the Regional Growth Strategy recognizes the cost benefits of concentrating growth close to established services, which has long been a philosophy of planners.

Yet one of the fundamentals of rural lifestyle is the enjoyment of wide-open spaces. Is there an inherent contradiction?

Despite this concept, the break-up of large agriculture holdings into small acreages is discouraged. The pressure to subdivide is strongest in electoral areas nearest to urban centres.

From 2009 to 2014, Electoral Area P (Rivers and the Peaks) experienced the second highest number of applications for subdivisions among either EAs or municipalities in the TNRD. The highest number came in Electoral Area L, across the South Thompson.

The reasons seem obvious — people who work in the city want to enjoy the rural lifestyle within a reasonably short driving distance. Areas P and L adjoin the City of Kamloops. Area P has the highest population among electoral areas. Whereas the City is running out of room for small acreages, the EAs right next door have lots of it.

It’s supply and demand. It should also be noted, though, that as many ALC applications for subdivision are refused as are approved.

The importance of protecting rural living isn’t just about a pleasant lifestyle. Agriculture continues to be an essential part of our economy, and the numbers of ALR applications are an indicator of how well we’re doing at protecting it. A reduction over time indicates that.

So that’s where the balance comes in — concentrating urban-style development in areas where at least some services exist, and discouraging the ad hoc creation of small isolated acreages. Smaller lots here, but not over there.