One farm feed store is set to close. Three kilometres north, another farm feed store may be about to open.
After about 60 years the Otter Co-op is shutting its doors due to the planned Harris Road CP Underpass project, which would leave the store without any way for vehicles to access it. CP has bought the property and the store is scheduled to close this fall.
Just down the road, however, local couple Danalynn Rooks and Mike Crouse are hoping to open a feed store on their five-acre property and to save farmers a trip to Langley.
Rooks and Crouse are clear that they are not taking over the co-op. Rather, they will buy products wholesale from the co-op and sell them at their proposed store.
They would join the more than 200 independent co-op dealers across B.C., said Vafa Alizadeh, AVP of Ag Solutions with Otter Co-op.
“It would be an independent business owned and operated by them,” he said. “We will supply them the same products, but it’s run by the owner and their own staff.”
If plans are approved, you won’t find any garden knickknacks for sale. They aren’t interested in competing with Rona or Home Depot. Their store will have working farm supplies: animal feed, gates, fencing, water barrels and the like.
The property, which has their home and Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre, which Rooks owns and teaches at, is currently zoned for A-1 General Agriculture. Under the use, 50 per cent of the products sold would need to be produced on the farm. So they are seeking a site-specific zoning amendment. But there are lots of hoops to navigate before product arrives.
They’ve successfully navigated step one, which was receiving support from the City of Pitt Meadows’ Agricultural Land Advisory Committee. They garnered that support on March 10 and their application was forwarded to city council for the next step.
Staff don’t normally support commercial use on agricultural land, said director of planning and development Anne Berry, but noted there were: “several extenuating circumstances.”
The co-op has been servicing the community in its current location since the 1960s and options for real estate big enough for the required storage area are limited.
“We’re a farming community. Pitt Meadows is 80 per cent farm land,” said Rooks. “How can you not have a feed company in the area to support?
On March 29, the proposal received “strong support” from council and the application was forwarded on to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). The application will stay there for an undetermined amount of time.
“We’re looking forward to supporting Pitt Meadows and we’re just hoping the ALC will see it our way,” said Rooks. “Our fingers are crossed and we’re holding our breath.”
In forwarding the application to the ALC, the city requested that it be reviewed in a timely manner. If they get the go-ahead from the ALC, Rooks and Crouse still need to get a building permit approved, inspections done and finally, a business licence to operate.
“Pitt Meadows has been good to us in the sense that this process normally takes quite a few years,” said Rooks. “They’ve done everything in their power to expedite it as best as they can.”
Rooks and Crouse are proposing to convert a covered riding arena and attached stalls into a storage facility and retail space. The 11,000 square-foot facility would be quite a bit larger than the current storage space, although the retail space is smaller.
An area that is currently fenced for horses would become the parking area and driveway. Customers could come in one driveway and leave from another, while deliveries can be handled at the back of the building, on the opposite side from the parking area.
The construction will be temporary, but the city is looking at a temporary use permit so if the property ever sells, the new owners wouldn’t be grandfathered in. Rooks has lived on the property for more than 20 years and said she has no intention of moving.
“We love where we are,” she said. “We love the community.”
Should the application be successful, Rooks and Crouse have invited some of the current staff to work in the new store.
“They’re a tight-knit community in there,” says Rooks. “They’re family. We don’t want to break that up.”
But until they hear about the ALC’s decision, they’re in a holding pattern.
This story has been amended to correct the name of Maple Meadows Equestrian Centre.