2017 Harvest

2017 Harvest

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BC Horse Farm case sent back to Farm Industry Review Board - original decision was unreasonable

In 2009, PH constructed a new barn on her farm property in Kelowna, BC to accommodate an equestrian business.  Her neighbours to the south brought a claim before the Farm Industry Review Board claiming that they were suffering from the effects of noise, lights, flies and odour from the farm.  In March, 2013, the Board found that a section of the horse farm and equestrian centre was not a normal farm practice - turning out horses within 15 metres of the southerly property line was deemed not a normal farm practice based on the City of Kelowna's zoning by-law and the Ministry of Agriculture's Farm Practice Review Guide.
 
The Board dismissed the noise and light complaints and determined that the farm's manure management practices were normal farm practice.  However, the Board accepted the complaint concerning the location of "livestock area B", which was not set back from the southerly property line.  The Board ordered that the area be shifted at least 15 metres from the boundary.
 
PH appealed and, on judicial review, the BC Supreme Court found that the Board's decision was unreasonable; the matter was remitted to the Board for a re-hearing.
 
The Court found that the Board, on the whole, failed to consider evidence pertaining to similar farm businesses in similar circumstances.  The Board's decision was not justified or transparent and reasonable because of that.  The Court wrote:
Although it is important to conduct an evaluative function that addresses the "good neighbour" principle, etc., the BC legislature chose clear and specific features of normal farm practices, including "accepted", "established", and "followed" practices.  This language is a clear and specific direction from the legislature that instructs the [Board] that it can supplement but not substitute certain evidence - e.g. provincial guidelines or the "good neighbour" principle - in place of evidence that demonstrates "proper and accepted customs and standards as established and followed by similar farm businesses under similar circumstances".  Indeed, the [normal farm practices legislation] circumscribes the evidence the [Board] must consider in making its final determination of normal farm practice.
and,
The legislature was clear when it defined the normal farm practice as a practice consistent with "proper and accepted customs and standards as established and followed by similar farm businesses under similar circumstances"; the [Board] was required to determine whether practices and by laws comport with those established practices.
Read the decision at: Holt v. Farm Industry Review Board.