By Steve Hubrecht

An effort to turn an old golf course situated in the center of town into a ranch has concerned residents stirred up in Canal Flats. 

Canal Flats council agreed on March 27 to hold a public hearing on legalizing livestock on the old golf course property in the village. The owners of property, Anora and Cory Kobza, are seeking a temporary use permit (TUP) allowing them to keep the five cows, six goats and flock of 40 egg-laying hens already on site.

The lot was once a golf course, but has not been used for golf in years. The Kobza siblings want to develop the property into an urban agriculture site featuring a small farm,“agri-tourism” and mini golf.

“It is 40 acres literally in the middle of town. It is important to the community,” said Canal Flats chief administrative officer Richard Wayken.

Neither Wayken nor development consultant Jean Terpsma, acting on behalf of the Kobzas before council, could say with certainty how long the golf course has been defunct.

“It has been awhile,” said Wayken.

The cows and goats have already been there for about two years, said Wayken. The Kobzas put them on the property to help shorten long grass, to deal with concerns that the grass was a potential fire hazard, he said. Terpsma said the Kobzas did not realize having the cows and goats was illegal at the time, and have been trying to legalize them ever since.

In 2021, the property was rezoned for urban agriculture, which allows for most of the farm and recreation operations the Kobzas hope to do, but does not allow livestock.

In September 2022, a TUP application for the livestock was rejected, after a Canal Flats council vote on it ended in a two-two tie. A majority of votes was needed to accept the application.  

In October 2022 a new village council was elected.

“So the Kobzas are trying again with basically the same proposal,” said Terpsma at the March 27 Canal Flats council meeting.

Anora Kobza is a Canal Flats councillor, and left the room for the discussion to avoid any conflict of interest.

Terpsma spoke to potential concerns about the goats spreading Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae to wild Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae is a bacteria causing pneumonia in domestic and wild sheep and goats. 

“The Kobzas have had the goats tested annually for the last two years, and they’ve been negative each time,” said Terpsma.

The entire property is surrounded by a chain link fence, and more internal fencing will be added if the TUP is approved, she explained.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Terpsma. “They’ve had these animals on site for the last couple years and to our knowledge there really has not been much for complaints, really, if any official complaints to the village. We are trying to legalize this and move forward with it. We feel like what they are proposing is suitable for that particular property.”

The Kobzas already have a greenhouse on site and plan to add an orchard, a mini golf course, a pumpkin patch and perhaps even a goat petting zoo.

Councillor Patricia Reed asked about pesticide use. 

“They have no intention of using it. They’re going to run it as an organic operation,” replied Terpsma.

The TUP, if granted, would be valid for three years. After that, it would need to be renewed.

This “provides the village the ability to see if it is compatible with the neighbourhood,” said Terpsma.

Council agreed to hold a public hearing on May 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia Discovery Centre.