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The Sunday Recap – Local News from the Week

Jason Stewart | February 18, 2018
The Sunday Recap – Local News from the Week
Poplar Grove at the entrance to the Naramata Bench.
Poplar Grove at the entrance to the Naramata Bench, has some interesting plans.

Every Sunday we recap local lifestyle and culture news from the past week. This week we take a look at the massive new development proposal that went before West Kelowna City Council, plans for a boutique hotel at a Naramata vineyard, and the Kelowna West by-election result.

The West Kelowna Blackmun Bay Village Proposal

A massive waterfront development (called Blackmun Bay Village) that includes four 15-storey towers, a 180-room hotel, 216 condos, 86 townhomes, a winery, and a marina was unveiled recently and West Kelowna City Council had its first look at it this week. On Tuesday, a first reading was given to a bylaw that would rezone seven hectares of agricultural land located at 2211 Campbell Road as tourist and commercial.

Land owners, Solunqua Orchards have long been operating as a peach and apricot orchard on the land right beside in the Casa Loma neighbourhood. At various points throughout the past five or six years they have been submitting applications (or extensions to those applications) to amend the Official Community Plan (OCP) land use designation, and rezone the subject property to accommodate both a medium density, mixed use development, and a marina.

Solunqua brought in design firm IBI Group (TSE: IBG), and its director Stephen Shawcross represented the development at Tuesday's meeting. The meeting itself generated a mixed response. For the most part, both council and city staff walked away from the presentation expressing concerns with the project, signalling that it will likely go through more changes before it moves ahead.

The issue with it right now is that it is big, like really big. For anyone that has travelled down the quiet, unassuming two lane Campbell Road through the Casa Loma neighbourhood, ending (a kilometre or so start to finish) at the Casa Loma Resort, it's difficult picturing a development this size here.

The Blackmun Bay Village rendering. Look at all that shrubbery.

The plans propose to incorporate the four structures into their natural surroundings by having them step into the area's slope and thus minimize impacts on neighbouring Lakeview Heights. There is an interesting attempt here in the renderings that tries to "incorporate" these structures into their surroundings – the designers have illustrated an almost comical over-abundance of shrubbery, not just at ground level but on every single floor of each building including the rooftops. In the scorching summer drought season when everyone's asked to scale back their water usage, it's difficult imagining any type of vegetation surviving in these conditions. And think of the amplified fire risks – someone haphazardly throwing a cigarette off a balcony, a piece of metal or glass heating up and dry brush being blown into it.

2211 Campbell Road and the surroundings via Google satellite map.

An even bigger issue I would think is a lack of infrastructure in the immediate area. Given that Campbell Road is one way in, and the same way out, the added stress the development would place on bridge traffic would be intense. During rush hours, I can only imagine that the line of traffic (and running vehicles) not just on the Bennett Bridge, but on Campbell as well (for vehicles waiting to merge) would be a traffic-flow nightmare. By placing a development this size in this area, you're basically forcing people into their vehicles to do their day-to-day. I'm also not quite sure which surrounding area new residents/guests would be patronizing – downtown Kelowna or West Kelowna? I guess West Kelowna gets the tax base and Kelowna gets the daily routine economic spin-off?

The developer cites that an additional $2.1 million per year in property taxes would be generated for the City of West Kelowna as well as significant business taxes associated with the marina and agro-tourism activities. The developer also estimates that upwards of 2,200 jobs would be created if the development is approved so that's obviously a nice take away.

In the proposal I see no mentioning of building additional roads and/or widening existing ones. It does mention that there would be construction of a pedestrian connection to Lakeview Heights. The developers are also discussing with neighbours, Westbank First Nation, connections to a regional pathway network, emergency vehicular access and the matching of improvements, in particular sidewalks between the proposed developments along Campbell Road. This still leaves the question of integrating these new long term residents with West Kelowna brick and mortar businesses and community somewhat unaddressed.

Following the meeting, Mayor Doug Findlater said he’s “not afraid of height or density” but that he sees some “yellow flags,” particularly when it comes to the aforementioned road infrastructure and the impact on the waterfront. “There are a lot of yellow flags, but there are some red flags too,” Councillor Duane Ophus added, saying several issues would have to be dealt with “in detail” if the project is going to move forward. Councillors Rust Ensign and Carol Zanon both expressed strong support, with Zanon calling the development the “harbinger of the future.”

Expect to see a number of council and community meetings on this development throughout the remainder of the year. For now you can read the developer's prospective on the Blackmun Bay Village website.

Vineyard Hotel Proposed by Poplar Grove

There’s a new project in the sights of the constantly evolving and expanding world of Poplar Grove Winery owner Tony Holler.

The doctor and pharma executive cum winery owner has overseen this popular outfit evolve from small winery and cheese making shop (under a previous partnership) to showpiece winery, to multiple brand powerhouse (they rolled out new brand, Monster Vineyards, to capture the entry-level market, leaving Poplar Grove, and its coveted Legacy for the higher-end sector) to BC’s biggest “pot plant”, Sunniva Inc. – just last month the news was announced that this planned facility, Sunniva Canada Campus is expected to produce 125,000 kg of premium medical cannabis a year… [and] if all goes as planned, it will be located on a 39-acre parcel of land in the industrial park north of Oliver [on Osoyoos Indian Band land].

A rendering used to get the ball rolling and show the community.

Clearly one to recognize the bounty of the valley, new economic realities and market trends, Holler has put forward the idea, with some preliminary plans, to build a 20-unit boutique hotel at the entrance to the Naramata Bench. The rendering you see above is not precisely what they’re proposing, but something tangible to get the ball rolling and show the community, he remarked at the open house he held. Poplar Grove would like to give high-end tourists an opportunity to vacay in the Bench, with the hopes that it will spur more activity in the region overall (ie. the wineries), much like in Europe or California.

Area residents had some concerns regarding increased traffic and a general detraction from the rural, bucolic character of the region, as well as the very real fact that that the proposed hotel is partially on the Agricultural Land Reserve. Holler, for his part, states that he plans to bring that up in his appeal to the Agricultural Land Commission arguing that most of that land is unplantable bedrock and better suited for a commercial building, while some residents appreciate that the bedrock area acts as a buffer to the Bench’s farms and fear that rezoning the untillable bedrock as anything but agricultural could create a bad precedent.

I suppose orchardists and wineries do have had some competing interests here, mostly to do with large crowds, however accounts of the meeting do have a conciliatory tone and an air of transparency that will make it an interesting topic to follow and see if it indeed completes its path to approval.

I for one, like this idea in theory. I’m a fan of more vacation accommodations filling traveller's needs rather than rental housing stock; I dig Holler’s vision of keeping it small, and the architecture in tune with a local aesthetic (ahem Westcorp and GCA); and it does appear that Holler's approach is sincere and open to working with those interests outside of the wineries. And finally, hubs or centres of concentration like this are always helpful to put our still sadly low-profile (outside of BC) industry on the map.

Ben Stewart wins the Kelowna West By-election

Stewart, of the BC Liberals, or LINOs (Liberal In Name Only) as I like to call them, handily won the Kelowna West by-election this week. He received 56% of the vote to Shelley Cook’s (NDP) 23%, and Robert Stupka’s (Green) 13%. Despite his previous abdication of responsibility so Christy Clark could be premiere, the people of Kelowna West seemed to dig his message of… well, I’m honestly not sure. More of the same I guess.

"Thanks Ben."

This status quo election result in Kelowna West, must mean people are generally content here, and are not as worried as their counterparts in other BC cities are about the threats facing them like the housing and opioid crises. This could also explain the underwhelming turnout. Certainly by-elections often have lower turnouts, but 13,624 out of approximately 46,000 eligible voters showed up (vs 18,797 in the 2013 by-election). Zoiks.

Instagram of the Week

Kelowna at night.

What a beautiful place we live. This is a late night view from West Kelowna.

A post shared by Mr. Okanagan (@mrokanagan) on

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