Hammonds Plains man in dispute with city over where he grows his produce

Pat Fogarty is busy selling fruit trees and vegetable transplants from a commercial space in Hammond Plains, N.S., but he’s worried about the future of his business because bylaw officers are investigating a complaint about where the products are grown.

“A lot has been sold already [with] plants being the new toilet paper,” he said.

Fogarty grows the products at his 2.2-hectare property in the Kingswood subdivision of Hammonds Plains. His home and newly built greenhouse can’t be seen from the road and the site is surrounded by trees. Besides the greenhouse, there is also a large garden plot and a section of land with fruit trees and blueberry bushes.

Fogarty began working on his business six years ago and that’s when he found out he could not sell anything on his property because it’s zoned as residential: R-1.

An email he received from Halifax’s bylaw office in 2014 seemed to indicate that growing fruit trees and vegetable transplants would be OK.

Fogarty’s products include vegetable transplants. (CBC)

“After speaking with a development [officer], it was suggested that as there is not a business component of the orchard where the produce is bought and sold on the property, the orchard would be considered similar to landscaping,” it said.

But that is not what city officials are saying now. In a statement to CBC News, they said a garden for personal use is permitted in an R-1 zone, but the growing of produce for sale even if it is off-site would constitute a commercial or agricultural use and would violate the zoning.

The current investigation began after the local councillor, Matt Whitman, posted a comment to a Facebook page for Kingswood residents in early May. He called Fogarty’s property a garden centre and asked for anyone with concerns to contact him.

The bylaw office confirms it received information from one source. It’s unclear who made the complaint.

Fogarty insists he’s not operating a garden centre on his property because he’s not selling the products from there.

Fogarty grows the products at his 2.2-hectare property in the Kingswood subdivision of Hammonds Plains, which includes a greenhouse. (CBC)

Another Kingswood resident, James Henderson, who sells real estate in the area, does not think any rules are being broken.

“The bylaw says you can’t operate a storefront, it doesn’t say you can’t have a home-based business. I think it’s a tremendous thing for the neighbourhood,” he said.

Fogarty also thinks his business addresses the broader issue of food security.

“Nova Scotia has a food stockpile of three days,” said Fogarty. “We can grow things fresh and have it right here and deliver it to your door.”

Hammonds Plains resident James Henderson says he doesn’t understand why the bylaw office has a problem with Fogarty’s business. (CBC)

Down the road, he’s looking to harvest vegetable transplants and fruit trees on his property and sell the finished products through deliveries to individuals, farmers markets and restaurants.

Whitman declined an interview.

“Zoning is not up to me,” the councillor said in a Twitter message. “If he’s operating legally in appropriately zoned commercial property, and I hear he is now, I wish him well and I will be his customer, thanks.”

Fogarty’s growing operation can’t be shut down until bylaw officers do a site visit to determine if he’s violating the zoning laws. For now, Fogarty is continuing with business as usual.

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