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Qualicum Beach council, residents discuss projects for town’s rural innovation hub

16 hectares of town-owned land identified as possible sites
The Funky Banana Farm hopes to introduce a vertical farming concept at the Town of Qualicum Beach’s proposed Rural Innovation Hub. (Funky Banana Farm photo)

The Town of Qualicum Beach council discussed two projects for a rural innovation hub, which aims to established new value-added light industrial forestry and agricultural area.

In 2020, 16 hectares of town-owned land was identified as possible sites for innovative rural uses. The land is composed of primarily unused properties, agricultural land, an old sand pit, an outdoor storage space previously used by the town’s parks department, and the decommissioned landfill.

The land within the Agricultural Land Reserve would be used for value-added agricultural purposes, while light industrial uses would have to go on the non-ALR land.

The town issued request for proposals for the hub and received two responses. One is the Funky Banana Farm and the other is the Qualicum Wood Transformation Corporation.

Town council was given the gist of what the two proponents plan by director of planning Luke Sales at a committee of the whole meeting on Dec. 15.

Funky Banana Farm proposes to purchase or lease seven acres of ALR land for the purpose of an agriculture and tourism operation. The plan is to design and build a one-storey, post-and-beam, glass-and-stone building, approximately 3,000 square feet, expandable to 6,000 square feet. The building will be used for plant propagation and sales, with the possibility of a second storey for residential purposes.

Spa pools and a deck are also going to be developed around an orchard area to provide a destination space for farm tourism. A cafe and sauna are also being planned in an outdoor setting including onsite parking. Access to this proposal would be from Qualicum Road.

Sales said the Funky Banana Farm proposal is compatible with the existing zoning on the site and is in line with many of the longterm sustainability goals in the town’s Official Community Plan.

The director of Funky Banana Farm, Mike Butler, said they have been engaged in vertical farming for two years now and own a 20,000-square-foot pilot project in Fort Saskatchewan in Alberta. They have tested various crops and trees from seed to propagation to prove the indoor vertical farming model.

“The vertical farming concept is the way of the future in my point of view,” said Butler. “We want to focus on growing plants that are usable locally and providing local food sustainability.”

Sales indicated if council endorses this proposal, there are still other details that need to be addressed such as access, impact on the adjacent land, municipal services and contractual issues.

The Qualicum Wood Transformation Corporation proposes to manufacture in glulam and pellets. Glulam, a growing market in North America and Asia-Pacific, is a stress-rated engineered wood beam composed of wood laminations or lams that are bonded together with durable, moisture-resistant adhesives.

“Glulam has a number of advantages,” said Sales. “It’s reliable and resilient for many applications, size and shape are flexible to meet many potential customers needs, economical, sustainable easy to handle and transport.”

The manufacturing would be held indoors, in a large, open span light industrial building approximately five to six thousand 5,000 to 6,000 square metres.

Sales indicated the proposed operation should be established outside the ALR, on the southern portion of the site near View Road. It would require approximately five acres of land.

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Residents were given a chance to give their input on both proposals. Many favoured the Funky Banana Farm proposal but would like to have more details on the plan.

There was more opposition to the wood manufacturing proposal. Some raised concerns about noise, pollution, traffic, impact to the environment and the incompatibility of the proposal to the town’s tourist-based community.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek made motion the committee of the whole make a recommendation to council to explore in more detail the access provided to the site, how much land is being used, how it would be set up and what municipal services would required.

Council endorsed the motion.

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Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
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