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Starbright finds new space
Okanagan Edge Staff - 4:22 pm - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Starbright Children’s Development Centre has spent years searching for more space.

It turns out the answer was right next door.

The Kelowna-based centre, a non-profit organization that offers support services for children with exceptional developmental needs, recently purchased the Mainstreet Community Church, which is beside Starbright on the east end of Bernard Avenue. The church, was winding down its religious stewardship for its members, knew Starbright was looking for space and started negotiations with its neighbours in April 2017.

The deal was completed Sept. 6.

“The land and building purchase of the Mainstreet Community Church in the present will not only alleviate significant congestion in our current building, it will also allow for additional space that can be used in the service of children,” Starbright executive director Rhonda Nelson said. “Looking forward to the future, it is a proactive move that will allow for the Starbright team of highly qualified, passionate professionals to respond to opportunities that may come to expand the range of essential developmental services for the children of Kelowna and throughout the Okanagan for years to come.”

Starbright will be doing renovations for the rest of the fall and hopes to open the final product in the new year.

Big White lands on cover
Okanagan Edge Staff - 2:25 pm - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Big White Ski Resort is getting some big press in advance of its upcoming season.

Ski Magazine, which is the sport’s biggest selling magazine in the world with more than 1.5 million readers, put Big White on the cover of its latest issue, which takes a look at North America’s best resorts.

The cover shot is of Todd Avison skiing down the slopes. Geoff Holman took the photograph.

“Special thanks to Katie Balkwill and many of the Big White team members who help get early access to the slopes for Geoff and the models each year,” Big White vice-president Michael J. Ballingall said in a press release.

“You can’t make the front cover if we don’t get a great shot, and we can’t get a great shot without the help of the community.”

Last day for whisky lottery
Okanagan Edge Staff - 12:28 pm - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Okanagan Spirits’ master distiller Peter Von Hahn.

Those hoping to have a chance to buy the Laird of Fintry Single Malt Whisky have until tonight to sign up for the lottery.

Okanagan Spirits, which produces the whisky once a year, will close its lottery signup tonight at midnight.

The first group of winners will be notified next Monday. Those whose names are drawn will be eligible to buy one of three options: one 750-millilitre bottle, two 375-millilitre bottles or one 375-millilitre bottle.

The big bottle retails for $75, while the mickeys go for $50.

The whisky is distilled from locally grown malted barley, aged in American white oak casks and then finished in fortified, old-vines foch French Oak barrels.

Click here to enter the lottery.

Vacancy rate on rise
Kirk Penton - 11:03 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Kirk Penton
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran serves cake to Mission Flats residents on Friday.

Kelowna’s rental vacancy rate is expected to be higher when the next numbers are released, and it is projects like Highstreet’s Mission Flats on K.L.O. Road that will be responsible for the increase.

The 280-unit complex, which held its ceremonial grand opening on Friday night, consists of five buildings, the first of which opened in March and the final one in August. Apartments and townhouses were available, and they were all snapped up quickly.

“This community needs it,” Highstreet vice-president of operations Pino Mancuso said as residents enjoyed food, music and draw prizes around him. “People are looking for a place to live. And if (the rental vacancy) goes up to two per cent and we’re priced right, we won’t have a worry.

“And it’s not just about the rents. It’s about having tennis courts. It’s about having a car-share program. It’s about building the communities differently.”

The City of Kelowna recognized the serious issue facing the community, so it offered tax incentives for companies to build affordable rental units. Highstreet, which is based in Kelowna but has properties all over B.C. and Alberta, jumped at the chance.

“The property tax incentive really helped us make a decision to build,” Highstreet president Scott Butler said. “Three years ago the rents aren’t what they are today, and believe it or not to build a purpose-built rental it was borderline at the time. The rents weren’t quite there. So it really helped tip the balance for us to focus on Kelowna.”

Rents for the apartment units range from $1,239 to $1,609, while townhome prices are between $1,269 and $1,999.

“We could’ve charged top dollar, but really what we wanted to do was charge a fair dollar because at the end of the day we’re trying to build a community. So that’s what we wanted to do,” Mancuso said. “We’re hoping that the people that are here today are going to be the people that will be here two years or three years down the road.

“We could’ve gone after the dollar and then at the end of the year have a whole bunch of turnover, or you could make the rents a little bit lower, build a community, build a place where people can bring their families and their friends, and that’s been the mentality we went after.”

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, who attended the grand opening and served cake to residents, pointed out that he and his council have done everything they can to help residents find affordable rental units.

“There’s been over 3,000 rental units approved by this council—more than any other in our city’s history—that are now under construction or occupied,” Basran said. “It’s predicted our vacancy rate in our community will rise to two per cent next year. So we’re making strides, and we will continue to do what we can to make sure housing is available and affordable for people in our community.”

Estate tax not needed
Contributed - 9:30 am - Columnists

Image: Thinkstock

A long-dead and largely unlamented tax has recently been rediscovered and embraced by certain people: the death tax, or estate tax.

But inheritance taxes were abolished in Canada in 1971 by the Liberal government when a capital gains tax was introduced.

In Canada, estates are already taxed on the difference between the market value of the securities or other assets at the time of death and what they cost.

Fans of restoring the death tax ignore the existence of these capital gains taxes, and also the taxes that were already paid on the income that went to invest in or grow the assets (say a business or farm) initially.

There’s only one real justification for taxes: to finance government. All functions of government require funding of some sort.

So how do you provide that funding in a way that’s perceived to be fair and efficient, and not oppressive?

The current approach is to use a wide variety of taxes, some of which may not be fair, are likely oppressive, and are certainly inefficient. Often they’re intended to attain social goals, not merely revenue ones.

Sales taxes, value-added taxes and the increasingly notorious tax on carbon dioxide—the carbon tax—are the most efficient taxes. But they’re also considered the most regressive, as they are disproportionately punitive on lower-income households.

Excise or sin taxes target unessential goods such as tobacco, alcohol, cannabis now and sometimes sugar. They try to modify behaviour so consumers become healthier. However, evidence of the effectiveness of these taxes is meagre. Fuel excise taxes, for example, punish drivers to supposedly fund the roads they drive on.

Payroll taxes are meant to fund pension and unemployment insurance programs. But they have the unintended effect of discouraging hiring and the pursuit of employment since they increase the employment cost burden.

Property taxes and property transfer fees are supposed to fund schools and infrastructure. In reality, they go into a general revenue pot. In practice, property tax revenue is adjusted to meet budget needs, not the other way around.

A land tax, which some economists favour over property taxes, would likely reduce property speculation. But it wouldn’t necessarily reduce the artificial scarcity from restrictive zoning and permitting that reduces supply and raises prices.

Wealth taxes don’t exist in Canada and are rare elsewhere in the world.

Tariffs and duties, once the main source of income for national governments, are now a very small part of the pie. It’s a similar story for permit and registration fees, fines and other government charges.

That leaves income taxes, corporate and individual, as the main and least efficient sources of government revenue.

Individual income tax is much higher than corporate tax. According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, in 2014 the 8.4 per cent of taxpayers who earned $100,000 or more paid 51.8 per cent of all income tax. And 33 per cent of Canadians, generally earning well under $50,000, paid nothing.

There are some costs that lower-income households bear that are brought about by government policy via regulation. These can be alleviated by such measures as the Canada Child Benefit and other transfers, a negative income tax, or a credit to employers and employees to offset the first expensive chunk of payroll taxes.

Estate taxes discourage investment and punish people who accumulate capital that helps to grow the economy and generate jobs.

The quest to equalize outcomes is ultimately mean-spirited, punishing those who succeed. And it further exacerbates the productivity and growth problems nagging this country.

Ian Madsen is a senior policy analyst at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Vacation rental targeted
Colton Davies - 8:34 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

A luxury estate near Kaleden being used illegally as a vacation rental is being taken to task by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

Board members voted Thursday to take injunctive action on the property owners of 328 and 320 Highway 3A, where a home on the property has been rented to vacationers this year without a permit.

The home is being rented for a minimum of $1,006 per night. It’s described to be 6,700 square feet with room for 16-plus guests and sits on 83 acres.

Pictures on the listing show renovations were also done to convert the attic into bedrooms, which was done without a building permit.

“Neighbours complained and said ‘what’s going on here?’ Because it’s been marketed on Airbnb and numerous other worldwide websites. And large groups of people were coming with as many as 20 people,” area director Tom Siddon said.

“They’re obviously bypassing our zoning bylaws and our permit process.”

Signs saying ‘do not occupy’ were put at the front of the property by RDOS staff when complaints were received in July, but witnesses said the signs were removed and the property continues to be rented.

“The owner contacted us [in July] and we outlined the expectations in order to bring the property into compliance,” a report from the RDOS said. “They did not respond to our entry request and have since ignored further attempts to resolve the issues.”

According to BC Assessment, the property was sold most recently sold on Sept. 28, 2017, for just over $2.25 million.

The home remains listed for rent on Airbnb, with the host said to be based in Vancouver.

Motel cleanup ordered
Wayne Moore - 7:37 am - Biz Releases

File photo: Wayne Moore

The owner of the former Ponderosa Motel on Harvey Avenue will have a little more than a month to clean up the property.

The motel closed in 2011, and since that time, conditions on the property have become “hazardous and unsafe.” There have been four structural fires and another minor fire since it closed. Police have recorded 110 files, including 21 complaints related to trespassing, drug activity and violence.

It’s also become a haven for the homeless and transients over the past several years.

Bylaw is asking city council to declare the buildings, overgrown vegetation and debris as a nuisance and offensive under provisions of the Community Charter.

There are three buildings on the property and, in a report to council, bylaw says while the owner took out a demolition permit in 2012, that permit has not been executed.

The owner of the property would have 30-days to comply after a notice of remedial action is given.

If action is not taken, the city would have the right to do the work and bill the owner directly.

Support business booming
Madison Erhardt - 6:24 am - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

This week marks a full year since Foundry Kelowna opened its doors, and in that time more than 1,500 youth have come looking for help.

Foundry Kelowna is a centre that works with youth aged 12 to 24 to get the help they need.

“There are 25 partner agencies working together, as seamlessly as we can, to reduce the burden young people can feel when they are looking for help,” Foundry Kelowna manager Melissa Feddersen said.

“When a youth walks through our doors it’s a safe and welcoming environment where they only have to tell their story once. That means getting help is less traumatic and less frustrating,” Feddersen added.

Foundry Kelowna can connect youth to counsellors, physicians, income assistance, housing and employment services.

“We’ve worked with more than 300 families since we opened. When a young person comes in, sometimes we discover that mom or dad is also experiencing the chaos that comes from navigating services for their child. We work with the whole family,” Feddersen added.

Foundry Kelowna is part of a network of seven centres now open in the province, joining two locations in Vancouver, Abbotsford, Victoria, Prince George and Campbell River.

New mill brings jobs
Colton Davies - Sep 23 - Biz Releases

A South Okanagan manufacturer is preparing to open a new mill in OK Falls next month.

Structurlam will be opening a new 35,000-square-foot facility in the town’s industrial park on Oct. 15th. It will employ 20 people to begin and is expected to employ about 20 more once fully operational.

The company already has a 105,000-square-foot facility in the OK Falls industrial park and has plants in Penticton and Oliver as well.

Structurlam engineers mass timber wood which is then sold to builders. The product is in growing demand, as staff say it’s a better way to build.

“In terms of environment, in terms of speed of construction, in terms of quality and in terms of cost, it really has very compelling reasons to adopt these products into construction applications,” Structurlam chief executive officer Hardy Wentzel said.

“A lot of the trees are coming from the Interior of B.C., they’re being processed by sawmills that are local to B.C. and then that lumber comes to Structurlam and we convert it one more time into these engineered wood products.

“I think with the amount of jobs we’re creating and with all the economy that drives off of what we do… I think there should be a lot of pride.”

Structurlam has provided mass timber for dozens of buildings in western North America. Among those, the Microsoft Campus in California, and the 18-storey UBC Brock Commons student housing building in Vancouver — the tallest wood building in North America.

Closer to home, one of their bigger projects done recently was the west wing of the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

“We’re having this — I would say — renaissance in the industry, of finding alternative materials to concrete and steel and now using mass timber in their places,” Wentzel said.

The company still needs to hire about 16 people for next month, and Wentzel said the openings are well-paying union jobs with benefits.

Selling pot not cheap
Wayne Moore - Sep 22 - Biz Releases

Photo: The Canadian Press

Potential cannabis retailers in Kelowna will have to pay higher than normal fees just to submit a rezoning application.

Planning staff are suggesting prospective retailers pay a $9,495 fee for the retail cannabis sales subzone. That would go up to $9,685 in 2019.

The initial rezoning fee is nearly three times what the city charges for a comprehensive development zone application ($3,380).

The higher-than-normal fees are not a surprise.

“There has been a lot of staff time to set this up and do reviews on this model. Having staff become familiar with the federal and provincial legislation, and legal time shutting down the illegal dispensaries that have been out there,” planning manager Ryan Smith said when initially discussing the fees a month ago.

The city will begin accepting applications for the retail cannabis sales subzone Oct. 1.

Rezoning application fees are non-refundable, and are over and above the cost of a business licence, which is also expected to be higher than those for other businesses.

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