Owners of a new farm-to-table restaurant trying to open their doors in east Maple Ridge feel they are being treated unfairly by the city.
Rayne Beveridge rented the 17-acre farm on 272nd Street in Whonnock with the idea of bolstering food security in the community.
Yellow House Farm, he envisioned, would be part of the solution by saving their own seeds, raising their own animals, growing their own crops, and picking everything by hand.
Everything, he said, would be certified organic and the farm would practise natural, sustainable, and ethical agriculture.
Complimenting the farm would be the Sunflower Cafe, which would serve dishes arranged by professional chefs using the organic produce from the farm.
“We started our small farm because we saw the problems in our food systems; the lack of nutrition, the exploitation, and the impact on our environment,” read a June 28 post by Yellow House Farm.
“We wanted to be a part of the solution and protect our community from the increasing threat of food insecurity and climate change,” it said.
Beveridge thought they would get a lot of support from the city. However, that has not the case, he claimed.
Beveridge said they started working with the city in October 2020, notifying them of their idea to build a farm-to-table restaurant. And in January, Beveridge said, they let the city know they were building the cafe.
‘It’s just been a crazy experience,” he shared, describing situations where the city would tell them that they couldn’t do things, but not explain why. Beveridge also recollected leaving messages and sending emails to city hall, that would go unanswered for weeks.
One issue was about two-and-a-half metre gazebos that Beveridge built for the cafe. The city wanted them inspected and told him that was the one thing he needed to get his business licence.
“Originally we didn’t think we needed it, (the inspection), because they are under the 10-metre spread threshold. But they told us ‘no, you actually do need this’,” Beveridge said.
So, he told the city he would have an engineer inspect them and he sent in all the information and filed his application for the licence. But, he criticized, the city didn’t even look at it for three and a half weeks.
“And we’re still waiting for them to permit the gazebos. I’m not entirely sure why,” added Beveridge.
“They’ve had our building application with drawings and inspections from a structural engineer since June 2,”Beveridge wrote online, and when he were asked if they could do takeout or delivery instead, the head of the bylaw office wrote to them denying their request.
Now, he said, there are issues with some tents they purchased in the United States. The fire rating on the fabric is a United States fire rating – not a Canadian rating. Beveridge admitted the issue is legitimate, but when he again asked for the city to let him open for takeout while they found new tents for the cafe, he told how the city was not willing to compromise.
“We explained to them over and over again that we are a farm first and foremost and our business is seasonal and because of that we can’t really weather delays. Our crops grow and they are ready when they are ready,” Beveridge said.
Chuck Goddard, director of planning with the City of Maple Ridge, said he has been advising Beveridge on the processes to bring his business concept to fruition since December of 2020.
Goddard said that in April 2021, the city offered Beveridge a business licence for a farm stand to sell the organic produce produced on the site as part of the ongoing discussion on the file.
Beveridge, he said, has not picked up and paid for that licence.
“The city will continue to work through the outstanding items related to this file with Mr. Beveridge, and city council will ultimately make the decision as a component of a Temporary Use Permit application,” added Goddard.
Beveridge said he has provided the city with Fraser Health kitchen, drinking water, and septic approvals, and electrical, plumbing, HVAC, gas fitting, and fire suppression permits.
And, he added, when they argued their right to farm under B.C. ‘s Right to Farm Act, he said the city contacted his landlord and said if they operated their food services they would file a court order and injunction. He accused the city of counselling his landlord to evict them from the land.
“We don’t want to waste taxpayer dollars on a needless legal battle, and we don’t want to fight our own city,” said Beveridge. But he has launched a GoFundMe campaign for the farm. He has, so far, raised $405 of a $20,000 goal.
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