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Zoning changes at Foothills
Darren Handschuh - 2:30 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Google Maps
Working in conjunction with Foothills Development Ltd, the city has initiated a zoning boundary adjustment in the Foothills neighbourhood.

The City of Vernon is trading land with a developer to allow for more park space and more development space.

Working in conjunction with Foothills Development Ltd, the city has initiated a zoning boundary adjustment in the Foothills neighbourhood for areas near Blackcomb Way, Baldy Place and the water reservoir site on Foothills Drive.

“Zoning boundaries are proposed to be adjusted to refine future parkland areas and residential development areas. The proposal includes creating an increased amount of parkland in more desirable locations, including protection of a significant view point along Foothills Drive,” said Tanya Laing Gahr, with the city.

The large open space ravine between Foothills Drive, Silver Star Road and Blackcomb Way is to be dedicated to the city as parkland as part of a subdivision process, much like other ravine areas in the neighbourhood.

Some small areas had been zoned for residential development that are now intended to form part of a park ravine area, and other areas that had been zoned for park are now intended for residential development. Foothills Development Ltd. is working with the City to protect a significant view corridor along Foothills Drive south of the water reservoir which would form part of the future ravine park lot.

“The ravines in the Foothills Neighbourhood play an important role in the overall drainage system for the area, provide habitat protection and wildlife corridors and are intended to provide a connected community trail system with links to the Grey Canal,” said Cleo Corbett, long-range planner.

Gahr said four lots along Baldy Place are currently zoned, partially or entirely, for parks and open space.

“The proposed zoning adjustment will rezone these lots for hillside residential single- and two-family homes. There are currently plans for construction of single-family homes on Baldy Place. Council passed a policy resolution on Aug. 14 stating that the City will not be enforcing the zoning or building bylaws on park zoned lots while the rezoning adjustment is being considered, allowing land owners to start construction, at their own risk, without a building permit,” said Gahr.

The zoning amendment process is estimated to take approximately four weeks.

Ski hill struggling to house staff
Okanagan Edge Staff - 12:26 pm - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Big White Ski Resort is about to complete a brand new, $3.5 million staff housing complex.

The new staff accommodations, the first of four that will be built on Black Forest Road over the next few years, will house five four-bedroom units, each with a common area and kitchen.

In addition, it will also feature four studio apartments with washrooms and cooking facilities

Michael Ballingall, the senior vice president at the resort, says Big White needs to have more than 1,000 employees living on the mountain in order to operate effectively.

But with private citizens beginning to rent less to resort employees, and more to tourists through vacation rental sites like Airbnb, the resort is “running short on hundreds of beds.”

Right now, Big White owns about two per cent of accommodations on the mountain—the rest are in the hands of private citizens.

This means Big White has started dumping money previously set aside for “more resort infrastructure and tourism facilities” into staff accommodations.

Eventually, Ballingall says, the new building will be part of an entire subdivision of staff homes in the Black Forest area.

“We’re building the first set of units this year, and it’s on the books to do it every season for the next three years—unless the economy changes again and more accommodation becomes available,” he said.

Right now, a team of 30 people from Kelowna’s Chaparral Industries are pre-manufacturing and building the structure offsite.

“We are utilizing the most modern methods of construction to ensure energy efficiency and minimal environmental impact,” said Alan Mann, the chief executive officer of Chaparral Industries. “The architect’s building design also incorporates energy recovery ventilators and radiant heating panels.”

Ballingall says Big White chose the modular building method to “lessen the environmental impact on the area,” as there is significantly less on-site activity and disturbance.

Image: Contributed

Heaps of water used on lawns
Trevor Nichols - 11:01 am - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed
In some cases, Okanagan Valley households use almost three times more water than the Canadian average.

There are a lot of beautiful homes in the Okanagan, boasting some truly spectacular landscaping.

But in our effort to maintain the verdant vegetation filling our yards, Okanagan Valley residents are using heaps and heaps of water. In the height of the summer, water consumption in the valley soars to nearly three times the national average.

According to Chhipi Shrestha, a Ph.D. candidate at UBC OKanagan, during peak demand consumption tops out at approximately 1,000 litres a day in the Okanagan Valley. That contrasts starkly with the Canadian average of just 340 litres a day.

The overuse, he says, is “primarily” due to lawn irrigation.

“The Okanagan Valley is a semi-arid region, and even though we have lots of lakes, the valley also has the lowest amount of freshwater available in Canada,” Shrestha says. “At the same time, we have one of the highest per capita use of domestic water in the country.”

Ed Hoppe is the water quality and customer care supervisor with the City of Kelowna Water Utility. He says compelling residents to be mindful of their water use “is definitely a challenge every year.”

With a massive lake winding through most of the valley, Hoppe says it can be tough to convince people water conservation is important.

“People aren’t really paying that much attention because they always believe that water is there,” he says. “For people to buy into the fact that they’re stressing the system, either they don’t care, or it doesn’t really affect them in any way.”

While Hoppe says there isn’t technically a water shortage in the city, there are “some real challenges” keeping up with the demand, especially since he needs to make sure there’s enough water in the reservoirs for firefighting activities.

Water use in city is highly dependent on the weather, and with so little rain this year demand has spiked, but Hoppe says the city’s education and conservation measures are having an effect.

Relative to the city’s growing population, he says, demand is generally going down. Recent water sustainability statistics from the city somewhat support his assertion.

The report shows consumption in 2015 (the last year of published data) was 436 litres per capita per day (LCD). That’s lower than in 2007, when consumption was 466 LCD, but higher than several preceding years, when the LCD dropped as low as 392.

For Shrestha, who has published several research papers about water use, distribution systems, and the energy consumed supplying water to homes, the amount of water used in the valley remains troubling.

The ecological footprint is “staggering,” he says, when the energy used to distribute water is considered.

However, Shrestha’s research also suggests communities can be specifically designed to help mitigate water consumption.

Key findings from his research show that residential density significantly affects the efficiency of water distribution systems.

The higher the residential density, the lower the per capita water demand, energy use, net carbon sequestration, and life cycle cost of water distribution systems.

“Water, energy, and carbon emissions are important elements of urban water sustainability; these elements are interconnected,” says Rehan Sadiq, UBC Okanagan’s associate dean of engineering

He says Shrestha’s research suggests community developers should consider the importance of constructing medium to high-density buildings in urban neighbourhoods to achieve optimal “watergy.”

Winery seeks expansion into ALR
Trevor Nichols - 9:35 am - Biz Releases

Image: City of Kelowna

A Kelowna winery is looking to significantly raise its profile, with the 463-square-metre tasting room and tapas bar it wants to build on the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Paul Bernard Lee, the owner of Burnt Timbre Estate Winery, submitted the application to the City of Kelowna earlier this month, outlining his vision for an ambitious addition to his winery that will allow it to market directly to consumers for the first time.

Burnt Timbre Estates Winery sits at 178-180 Swick Rd, a stone’s throw away from the area swallowed by the massive Okanagan Mountain Park Fire in 2003.

During its height, the 250-square-kilometre fire destroyed many homes, but “by some miracle” ran out of life virtually at Lee’s doorstep.

“We can see the effects of the fire all around us and beyond the charred timber, we can also see a remarkable transformation taking place,” Burnt Timbre says on its website.

Burnt Timbre has been producing wine since 2012, with its first vintage giving a nod to the fires the winery was born out of. The Bordeaux-style blend is called Bomberos, which is the Spanish word for firefighters.

Lee plans to take inspiration from the “transformation” that happened in the wake of the fire in the design of Burnt Timbre’s new addition.

“The concept behind the design plays on the resilient and regenerative nature of the environment … to pay homage to the power of fire on natural materials,” Lee writes in a letter to the city.

Lee says that the expansion wouldn’t just create several management, food and beverage and other positions, it would also allow him to offer more jobs in Burnt Timbre’s vineyards and on-site production facility.

He believes the wine shop will be well visited, because Burnt Timbre site on the Lakeshore Wine Route, along Lakeshore Road.

His proposal will come before council in the coming months.

New hotel green-lit
Colin Dacre - 8:34 am - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

City council unanimously approved Tuesday another new hotel planned for Eckhardt Ave. West in Penticton.

The 74-room hotel — the second to be approved this summer — will go on four lots that most recently housed a Petro Canada gas station.

The only speaker at Tuesday’s public hearing was the hotel’s architect, Joe Minton, who said construction time on the project would be 12-18 months from start to finish.

The Agur family is behind the plan, and already own and operate the adjacent Ramada, but the new hotel would operate as its own entity.

“It’s great to see the investment in new hotels coming to Penticton and particularly around the events centre as an entertainment hub,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.

The Ministry of Transportation still need to approve the project, particularly its vehicle entrance onto Highway 97.

Showcasing agriculture
Wayne Moore - 7:32 am - Biz Releases

Image: File photo

Kelowna’s agricultural prowess will be on full display later this month when a large delegation from Kasugai, Japan pays a visit.

The agricultural-themed expo will feature local orchardists, water managers, honey producers, vintners and brewers.

Table-top displays will be augmented by workshops on Canadian export regulations, sterile insect release programs, honey production, cherry and fruit growing and the Agricultural Land Commission.

The Japanese delegates will also present workshops on water conservation and the growing and production of cactus-related products.

This will be one of the highlighted events for the 51-member delegates, visitors and students from Kasugai, Kelowna’s sister city.

The delegation will also be in the city for celebrations surrounding the 30th anniversary of the opening of Kasugai Gardens, next to city hall.

The agricultural expo is scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Kelowna Golf and Country Club. It begins at 3 p.m. and the general public is welcome to attend.

Ag centre takes next step
Chantelle Deacon - 6:00 am - Biz Releases

Image: Getty Images

The District of Summerland is contributing $15,000 towards the development of a business plan for an Okanagan Agriculture Innovation Centre.

The proposed centre would be designed for agriculture and agri-tech industries, providing assistance for young businesses and entrepreneurs who hope to boost their products.

The $15,000 will go to the Chamber of Commerce to help pay for a professional business plan, priced at $50,000. At Monday’s council meeting, all members appeared to be on board.

“We are participating, we’ve already supplied some funds towards this initiative and we are contributing more so that we can participate up to the $50,000 required to move ahead,” Mayor Peter Waterman said.

A recent feasibility study showed that over 90 per cent of people surveyed in Summerland believed the agriculture innovation centre would be beneficial for the community.

“To take the next step for the agriculture innovation centre, we provided $7,300 for the feasibility study,” said Chief Administrative Officer Linda Tynan. “Since then, the feasibility study has been complete and the province is very interested in exploring this further and looking at a business plan and has agreed to contribute $25,000,”

“The City of Penticton has also agreed, and Community Futures has also agreed,” she added.

Each will chip-in $5,000.

Council overwhelmingly felt that with the contribution, the District should be involved in developing the business plan.

“I think it is acceptable to ask that the district be involved right from the business plan phase because if this does go ahead we would expect to have the same, if not more, participation on the next phase of this project,” Councillor Erin Carlson said. “I think it is better to work together.”

Opportunity knocks
Okanagan Edge Staff - Aug 15 - Biz Releases

Photo: Getty Images

The Women’s Enterprise Centre wants to give you the tools to best get to the door when opportunity knocks.

The centre’s latest Mentor Advisory Forum will take place Aug. 23, and teach small business owners how to navigate the Government of Canada’s tender process.

The free, phone-in seminar is titled Opportunity Knocks! Bidding on Contracts with the Government of Canada, and will provide attendees with “general advice and guidance” on the government’s request for Proposal (RFP) process.

Facilitated by Kerrilee Auger, a skills development officer at the Women’s Enterprise Centre, the one-hour seminar will touch on several points, including:

  •         An overview of Buyandsell.gc.ca;
  •         Searching for tenders, contract history and standing offers and supply arrangements;
  •         How to follow opportunities;
  •         The different types of opportunities;
  •         The process for bid evaluation and submission.

Panelist Louisa Young is from the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, and is an expert who works with small to medium enterprises to improve access to government opportunities, by simplifying the contracting process and reducing procurement barriers.

Both women and men are welcome to attend the seminar. For more information, or to register, visit the Women’s Enterprise Centre online.

Do B.C. wines stack up?
Okanagan Edge Staff - Aug 15 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Okanagan Valley wine producers take their craft very seriously, but do they hold their own against the industry’s international benchmarks?

This Friday, sommeliers, writers and judges from around the world will attempt to answer that question, at what the BC Wine Institute is calling a “monumental” tasting event.

The third annual Judgement of BC attempts to make history, as 21 internationally renowned industry experts undertake a blind tasting of some of the province’s most widely planted grapes: Merlot and Pinot Gris.

Judges taste several B.C. wines from each category, alongside an equal number of acknowledged international benchmarks.

Aug. 18, at Summerland Waterfront Resort, the results of the judgement will be revealed.

Curated by celebrated Vancouver wine writer DJ Kearney, the judgement will see experts from the United Kingdom, United States and British Columbia weigh in.

Included in the lineup is acclaimed U.K. wine writer Richard Hemming MW, and three other Masters of Wine (the highest qualification in the industry).

“The goal of this event is to honestly assess the current state of grape growing and winemaking in BC, and to provide a clear perspective of the distinct characteristics of British Columbia wine in relation to global standards,” says Laura Kittmer of the BC Wine Institute.

At last year’s competition, the province’s Rieslings held their own against an international field, with Cedar Creek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2014 placing second, closely behind Max Ferd. Richter Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2013 from Germany. Okanagan Rieslings also placed third, sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th.

B.C.’s Pinot Noirs fared less well, placing fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth against the international field.

Nevertheless, Kearney told the BC Wine Institute he was “pleased with the results.”

“This is not about win or lose, good or better. This is about putting BC wines up against really stiff competition,” he said. “The global wines were all chosen for a reason: to challenge, to push, and to help us realize that we are in great company. This should be a tough competitive set, and it was–it had to be–and B.C. did well. What this shows is that we can hold our own among acknowledged classics.”

This results of this year’s judgement will be revealed at the Judgement of BC Sparkling Reception, Aug. 18, at the Summerland Waterfront Resort ballroom.

More information about the competition is available here.

Don’t gasp at ‘softening’ market
Bill Hubbard - Aug 15 - Columnists

The world according to Bill

Image: The Canadian Press

July was a very interesting month in the Okanagan Shuswap Real Estate Market.

I believe it is time to say that the Central Okanagan is approaching a slight softening in the market. For those of you who just gasped, this is a good thing.

My preference would actually be for the market to soften a bit in all zones so we can get back to a more balanced market.

The faster and higher a market rises, the farther it falls and the bigger the “thud” at the bottom. That is what happened during the crash in 2008.

The softening I see in July is slight enough that it is hard to find, but it cannot be ignored.

Absorption and inventory are the two statistics that have shown historically to be the most accurate in predicting the market. The absorption is the percentage of all residential inventory that sells in a month, and the inventory is simply the average number of houses on the market each month.

These are the statistics for supply and demand, the two driving forces of any market.

When we compare the last three months (May, June, and July) of absorption and inventory in the Central Okanagan to the same three months in 2016, we find absorption is decreasing and inventory is increasing.

That can be a sign of a market softening.

When we compare those findings with the North and Shuswap zones, we find a fairly subtle but distinctive difference: in those markets absorption is still increasing and inventory is still decreasing.

What does this mean? A lot of things, potentially.

It could mean the market has peaked and we are starting to see a correction. It could also mean there is something affecting the market artificially.

When we get our heads out of our statistical butts for a moment we can find some pretty easy explanations about what kind of artificial factors might be having an impact.

Not long ago, it was reported that Kelowna had worse air quality than Beijing from all the smoke. That’s pretty bad.

Both Vernon and Kelowna have seen more cancellations from tourists who were planning on vacationing, and to top it all off we had some of the worst floods in the Okanagan’s history this year.

We don’t have to look far figure out what is different about this summer.

However, in all three zones we still have inventory that is painfully low, and prices, sales and absorption that are higher than any other time.

The migration from the coast and from Alberta has not let up and in fact is increasing.

The next few months will certainly solidify what is causing a slight softening in the Central Okanagan.

My guess is it will be very slight, but the next few months will confirm that. Probably

But always remember that is just “the world according to Bill.”

Bill Hubbard is a real estate broker and the owner and broker of a four-office real estate firm in the Okanagan-Shuswap. He has been in real estate for 28 years and has been an owner and broker in Vernon for 20 years. At almost 60 years old he is just as passionate about real estate as the day he started.

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