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Free legal advice
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 24, 2019 - Biz Releases

Photo Credit: Access Pro Bono Society of BC

Low-income residents will have the chance to take advantage of free legal advice next month as a four hour event is hosted in Kelowna next month.

The Pro Bono Going Public advice-a-thon will be hosted at the City Park Rose Garden on Tuesday, September 10 and consist of lawyers rotating in hour-long shifts over the course of the half day event. Running from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the lawyer volunteers will cover all areas of the law and will help provide free legal advice to those who need it.

The 12th annual event is meant to help those in the community who may otherwise have limited access to traditional free legal advice clinics. The organizers of the event, Access Pro Bono Society of BC, are also fundraising with the hopes of raising $75,000 or more for BC’s pro bono programs.

Similar events will also take place in Vancouver and Surrey next month, as well as telephone clinic for those who cannot attend the events.

Those interested in participating are encouraged to pre-register for an appointment slot online or by phone to ensure there will time to discuss their issue. Drop in is also available for those who are unable to commit to a specific time.

Phone scam making rounds
Colin Dacre - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: Stock Photo

A phone scam common in the United States has made an appearance in Penticton.

A Castanet News reader, who would like to stay anonymous, says last week she was contacted by a “private number” who claimed to be a Michael Ross of Publisher Clearing House International.

She was randomly picked and had won $185,000.

“He knew my full name and current address,” she said. “He asked if I would be home on Aug. 22 between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. because himself, his boss and a member from our local RCMP would be at my home to award me with the prize.”

The man told the Penticton resident that $9,500 in duty taxes would have to be paid on the prize, but they would cover it.

After asking what bank she dealt with (RBC), the scammer gave her a business account bank number from TD Canada.

“He said he would transfer me to RBC and a representative would handle the transfers,” she said. “Stating that they would put the money ($9,500) in my account and then I would pay the duty tax.”

When the transfer took place, a recording played “exactly the same” as one used by RBC.

The bogus RBC representative assured the woman that it was not a scam, and began to request information to “verify” her account, asking for her bank number and security code.

At that point, the Penticton woman told the man she thought it was a scam and hung up, but not before the scammer called her a “bozo” while trying to convince her it was a real giveaway.

Fraudulently posing as Publishers Clearing House is an “oldie but a goodie” for scammers,according to the United States Federal Trade Commission. While it is common in the United States, it has been reported far less frequently in Canada.

While Publishers Clearing House is a real organization that hands out prizes, it will never request funds to release a prize and only contacts winners by mail or in person.

Personal information should never be given out over the phone.

Canadians that believe they have been approached by a scammer are urged to report the situation to the federal Anti-Fraud Centre.

NY Times recommends Kelowna
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: Stock Photo

The New York Times is recommending that readers should visit the Okanagan Valley if they are looking for a budget-friendly holiday thanks to the strong US dollar.

Travel writer Elaine Glusac says in her article “Canada has a wealth of attractions apart from offering value, including plenty of places to escape the crowds.”

She says if readers like Napa Valley, then they will enjoy the Okanagan Valley. Saying that while it’s hard to compete with the U.S. destination, the Okanagan holds its own “scenic appeal and quality quaffs.”

Glusac recommends flying into Kelowna and taking in lunch at Quails’ Gate Winery, then checking out the rustic decor at The Hatch, before spending a night at the lively Hotel Zed.

Praising varietals such as our rieslings and syrah, the NYT writer says quality has increased greatly over the past decade. Noting that Okanagan wine is largely unavailable in the U.S. market, she adds that wine connoisseurs will need to plan a trip to the region to experience our award winning wines.

Glusac recommends several Canadian locations to check out as alternatives to U.S. hotspots. Readers who enjoy the vibe of New York are being told to visit Toronto as it offers a wealth of cultural and culinary attractions with affordable Airbnb listings.

She recommends Prince Edward County, Ontario to those who like the vibe of Hudson, N.Y., and Revelstoke for those who are looking for a winter destination.

The American exposure is great for the region as it can only help boost tourism for the area.

BC Hydro rate decrease
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: BC Hydro

BC Hydro has asked the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC) for a decrease in rates after receiving higher than anticipated income following an audit of its 2019 financial forecast.

If approved, BC residents will benefit from the decrease and pay less for electricity by next spring.

“For the past two years, our government has been focused on making sure BC Hydro works for people again,” said Michelle Mungall, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. “I am thrilled that BC Hydro is now able to apply for a rate reduction for the first time in decades.”

The proposed lower rates build on the results of Phase 1 of the government’s comprehensive review of BC Hydro, which was completed in February 2019.

The review includes actions to keep electricity rates affordable for customers by cutting costs, including indefinitely suspending the Standing Offer Program for IPPs, and expanding independent oversight of BC Hydro by the BCUC.

BC Hydro has requested a rate reduction of one per cent starting April 2020.

The BCUC is expected to make its final decision on rates in early next year.

Pot shop smash and grab
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: File Photo

A Lake Country cannabis store has been open less than a month and already, it has been the target of a break and enter.

RCMP were called to the Starbuds store in the 11000 block of Oceola Road shortly after 7 a.m. on Thursday when staff discovered a break-in that occurred overnight.

According to RCMP Communications Officer Jesse O’Donaghey, surveillance video shows two suspects smashed the front glass door to gain entry.

The suspects, who were wearing hoodies, bulky jackets, and gloves made off with accessories products and an undisclosed amount of cash.

Police are asking the public to report any suspicious activity they may have seen in the area during the early morning hours of August 23.

Witnesses or information about the break-in can contact the Lake Country RCMP at 250-766-2288 or report anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Mass timber buildings coming
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: BC Gov

City Council is expected to adopt an initiative that will allow mass timber buildings in Kelowna to increase in size from six storeys up to 10 storeys at Monday’s council meeting.

City staff will present the information to council in advance of federal National Building Code changes that will come into play in 2020. By proactively adopting the building code changes, it is believed that it will encourage innovation through value-added wood products, helping to grow local and global markets.

Mass timber building is where the primary load-bearing structure is made of either solid or engineered wood. Encapsulated mass timber is where the mass timber components are surrounded by fire-resistant materials like drywall.

Mass timber buildings can be one-fifth the weight of comparable concrete buildings, while still meeting performance standards for safety, structural resilience and fire protection.

According to City staff, the provincial initiative is feasible as the City’s building department currently employees 11, Level 3 certified Building Officials as Building Inspectors and Permit Coordinators, which is the highest number of competency level per capita throughout BC.

If the policy is adopted by council, the bylaw would allow for the potential for 10 storey wood framed buildings without variance on select parcels in the downtown, midtown, and capri-landmark urban centres.

ICBC changes coming
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - BC Biz

Photo Credit: ICBC

Beginning September 1st, ICBC will be changing its insurance model to what it calls a more driver-based insurance model.

Drivers will notice several changes to their insurance including a list of all drivers who will use your vehicle, a photo of your current odometer, and information regarding factory-installed autonomous emergency breaking (AEB).

If you purchase or renew insurance from ICBC, brokers will ask for specific information regarding drivers who use your car, including household members, employees, and learners.

They will require the license numbers and date of birth of these drivers. ICBC says the addition or removal of drivers doesn’t cost anything, and adding drivers won’t necessarily change premium costs, depending on the driver’s experience and crash history. Under the new model, the majority of Basic insurance premiums will be based on the principal driver. Of the other drivers, the one with the highest level or risk will make up a quarter of the premiums.

However, if the listed driver is lower-risk than the principal driver, there will only be a reduction in premium if that listed driver is a household member or employee.

A new discount is available for vehicles that are driven less than 5,000 kilometres per year. Drivers can submit a photo of their odometer at renewal to their broker, and if they do not exceed the 5,000 kilometre limit, they will receive a 10 per cent discount the following year.

Another discount is being introduced come Sept. 1, vehicles equipped with factory-installed autonomous emergency breaking (AEB) will be eligible for a 10 per cent discount. ICBC says AEB has been statistically shown to help prevent crashes.

Driving history and crashes already affect basic premium insurance, but beginning September 1, they will have a greater impact. According to ICBC, the more crashes you cause, the more you will pay in insurance.

There will also be changes to Driver Risk Premiums so that distracted driving is designated a high-risk behaviour. Drivers with two convictions for using an electronic device while driving in a three-year period will face as much as $2,400 in fines and premiums. This amount will go up by a further 20 per cent in November 2019.

Local water park biz grows
Nicholas Johansen - Aug 23, 2019 - Biz Profiles

A local waterpark design and manufacturing company has completed a massive expansion, doubling its manufacturing space.

Waterplay solutions purchased an old chopsticks manufacturing plant in Kelowna’s North End several years ago, and much of the company’s manufacturing has taken place in the 10,000 square foot facility since then.

Earlier this year, Waterplay completed construction at the facility, doubling its manufacturing area and adding office space for a total of 38,000 square feet.

“We started our expansion on this facility about three or four years ago, we started the design process, and we broke ground in January of 2018,” said Lisa Neilson, Waterplay’s vice-president of corporate services.

Notable local Waterplay water parks include the recent revitalization at Kelowna’s City Park, along with the water park at Ben Lee Park, but Waterplay has projects around the world, in the United States, Australia, Europe, Dubai and Singapore.

“Wherever people want to go play in the spray park, we’re there,” Neilson said.

Waterplay traces its roots back to the 1980s, but it was bought by Vernon’s Jill White in 2004, who began moving much of the manufacturing in house. That trend continues with the expansion of the facility’s manufacturing space.

On Thursday, Waterplay held their grand opening of the new facility, now that most of the finishing touches have been put in place. Family and friends of the company’s 64 local staff were treated to a barbecue and games, carrying on into the evening.

“It’s been a great success story. Jill’s made the investment right now in this new facility to position us for additional growth,” Neilson said. “We’ve also been filling out some of our team in order to allow us to better service some of the remote markets. We’re looking forward to what’s to come in the next 10 years.”

Kelowna embraces sandwich shop
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Biz Profiles

Photo Credit: Chachi’s

If you have been to Orchard Park Shopping Centre you may have noticed a brand new sandwich shop in the food court, but what you may not know is it is a Kelowna man’s franchise.

Chachi’s may have started in 2006 in Calgary, but it has a strong connection to Kelowna as one of the business partners, Jason Cunningham, grew up in the city. Cunningham helped open up the first Starbucks in the Shopping Centre in 1995 and was the assistant manager. He is now back at his old stomping grounds with the Chachi’s sandwich shop, which opened at the beginning of August.

“We were received extremely well and people were happy that there is something local, interesting and exciting in the food court,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham and one of his two business partners were both baristas at the Okanagan’s first Starbucks coffee shop, learning and understanding the business industry.

“We developed a great friendship and from there went into business and today we grow franchise brands across Western Canada and Chachi’s now has 24 locations,” explained Cunningham.

The Kelowna location is the first one in the B.C. Interior. Cunningham is now looking for a franchise partner to take over the Orchard Park location because they feel it’s important that the business is run locally and keeps a local connection.

“Our menu is based on ingredients from local producers, and we believe the best management is when people who own the business also live and work in the community,” said Cunningham. “No one cares like a franchise partner who has a vested interest in the business. Hopefully it blossoms into other locations in the Valley.”

Chachi’s uses ingredients from local supplies in Western Canada and hand picks certain butchers, bakeries, and cheese suppliers. In fact, they are currently looking for someone local to supply cookies for the Kelowna location.

During the Kelowna grand opening of the Chachi’s store, Cunningham says they raised $2,000 for BC Wildfire victims and were blown away by the generosity from the local community for their new business.

Illegal West Kelowna AirBnBs
Anita Sthankiya - Aug 23, 2019 - Okanagan Biz

Photo Credit: AirBnB Screen Grab

A quick search on AirBnB will show you that there are more than 300 properties available for short term rental in West Kelowna and 117 on Westbank First Nation Land, all operating illegally.

Unlike the City of Kelowna, neither community has a bylaw in place to allow and regulate these short term rentals.

In July 2019, Kelowna introduced a short-term rental bylaw that would allow a homeowner or primary resident to legally rent their principal residence for a period of 29 days or less. The business licence fees cost owners a few hundred dollars and allow them to advertise their property on a rental site such as AirBnB or VROB.

With the introduction of the new rules on this side of the bridge, many in West Kelowna thought it wouldn’t be long before the City looked into a short-term rental bylaw as well, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Currently in West Kelowna, no short term rentals under one month are allowed in the city.

“Our bylaw indicates you can rent for a month or more,” explains City of West Kelowna Communications Manager Kirsten Jones. “We are complaint based bylaw enforcement, if a complaint comes in it is investigated and followed through.

Last year, the City conducted some proactive enforcement around short term rentals and a total of 62 files were opened. Of those files, 37 came in as complaints from the public and 25 from the officers themselves. Although 20 per cent of the current listings on sites such as VROB and AirBnB were investigated, Jones says there is currently no bylaw being developed.

Jones says residents who have concerns about short term rentals can contact bylaw with their complaints, leaving the onus on them to have proof that the infractions are taking place. This could be as simple as reporting a listing to officials.

The City of West Kelowna says they are aware of the issue and are working diligently when complaints come in, but are not currently working on developing a plan to deal with the illegal listings.

On Westbank First Nation (WFN) land, it’s unclear what they are doing to combat the short term leases. We reached out to the WFN several times via phone and email for comment, but calls were not returned.

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