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Erin considers bylaw changes to allow agri-tourism

Restaurants, cideries, culinary schools and overnight accommodations on working farms could soon be permitted and regulated by the town
20160926 rural romp 5 tb
Wellington County's annual Rural Romp is an example of agri-tourism, here a family snaps a selfie at Harmony Meadows Alpaca farm in Belwood. File photo/GuelphToday

The town of Erin is considering bylaw changes that would enable local farms to operate agri-tourism ventures like farm to fork restaurants, cideries, culinary schools and overnight accommodations in structures like bunkies and yurts.

At Tuesday’s meeting, town council directed staff to prepare a draft bylaw amendment for discussion at a future public meeting. 

In a telephone interview, Mayor Allan Alls said permitting and regulating agri-tourism in Erin would encourage economic development in rural areas — something the town, county and province are all interested in. 

“For instance, if you had an apple orchard and people like to come and pick apples in the fall and be part of the operation, maybe you could make cider and maybe they’d like to stay overnight,” Alls explained. “With this bylaw that would make that legal.”

“We’ve actually had requests already from some of the agricultural sector asking for the ability to do this so they can supplement their income,” he said.  

Under the potential bylaw amendment, farms wishing to operate agri-tourism ventures would still need to have them approved by council. 

Alls said he anticipates the new rules could be finalized within the next few months, and councillors “are not rushing into this.”

“There are of course some concerns that council is going to have to look at,” he said. “And that’s increased traffic and how it affects your neighbours.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Alls’ council colleagues raised similar points. 

“I’m in favour of this, however it brings up some questions for me,” Coun. Rob Smith said, listing the potential impact on neighbours, large events like weddings and guest safety as things “that still have to be vetted out.”

“I think there would have to be strong site plan conditions on this bylaw,” Smith said. 

The date of the public meeting on the proposed bylaw amendment has not been set.