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New development on Springfield
Trevor Nichols - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

The owners of a small, vacant property bordering Springfield Road are planning to build a six-townhome development at 1275 Brookside Ave.

In a letter to the City of Kelowna, the firm that designed the proposed development says the 0.35-acre lot provides the “ideal opportunity” to continue a trend in the neighbourhood of blending multi-family residences into the neighbourhood.

“Recognizing that this project is a transition property mixed between adjacent single-family homes, the form and character was developed to integrate into the more traditional form and character without introducing a contrasting modern style,” the letter reads.

The six townhomes that will make up the development will each be three storeys high and contain three bedrooms within their 1,655 total square feet of area.

In order for the project to move forward, the property will have to be rezoned from RU1 to RM3. City council will make that decision at an upcoming council meeting.

Valued at $693,000, BC Assessment says the property was sold for $700,000 in April of 2017.

Image: Contributed

11 proposed highrises
Wayne Moore - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Image: City of Kelowna

Now that city council has approved a 33-storey hotel, condo and convention centre for downtown Kelowna, what’s next? How will the skyline of downtown Kelowna change over the next five, 10, 20 years?

Planner Terry Barton gave council a hint Tuesday with a map of downtown showing sites where taller buildings are being contemplated.

The map includes 11 locations within the broader downtown where towers are being proposed, although he cautions the sites are at various stages of discussion.

Ella, a 20-storey mixed-use building at the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Ellis Street, is already in the early stages of construction.

“One of the sites we chose, the Courier site, it’s currently for sale. We’ve been fielding obviously many inquiries from potential developers as to what planning would support there,” said Barton.

“There are a number of developers who are interested in pursuing two towers on that site. Who knows if it will get sold, who it gets sold to, and if we see an application in a year or two.”

He said there is a general level of intent that, regardless of who buys it, at some point in time they would likely pursue a highrise.

Barton says the same holds true for what was the proposed Monaco site across from the Courier at Doyle and St. Paul, and the former Dragon King restaurant property on Harvey Avenue between Pandosy and Ellis Streets.

Both, he says, are under new ownership and there is a desire to develop at some point in the future.

A rezoning application has also been forwarded to the city for a property on St. Paul, behind the old Bargain Shop.

Barton says that could be the first phase of what may be a three-tower development including the former Bargain Shop location.

Other properties contemplated for high rise construction are the former RCMP site on Doyle Avenue and two potential towers on what is now the parking lot in front of Prospera Place fronting Water Street.

It’s envisioned the sites under consideration would accommodate buildings of between 12 and 26 storeys, however, developers may seek more density to further their specific project.

As for the public’s appetite for height in the downtown core, Barton agreed with Coun. Gail Given’s assertion that the outcry around the size of downtown buildings has waned over the last decade since the uproar over the failed CD21 proposal.

Realtors question new taxes
Trevor Nichols - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Image: The Canadian Press

The provincial government made bold moves in its recently tabled budget aimed at tempering the soaring cost of real estate in parts of the province.

Along with ponying up billions of dollars for affordable housing over the next ten years, the government expanded the reach and increased the severity of the tax on foreign homebuyers and announced a new “speculation tax” it says will target people who own homes in B.C. but don’t live here full-time.

Get more details on the changes here.

While Finance Minister Carol James said the changes will begin to fix the “housing crisis” plaguing the province, many local realtors are more than dubious.

Not addressing fundamental problem

Tanis Read, the president of the Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board, says the bevy of new taxes might make the government look good, but they don’t properly address the fundamental problem driving up home prices in the province.

Kelowna realtor Mark Walker agrees.

“I don’t think that you can control prices with tax. You can only control prices with supply,” he says.

As local realtor Bill Hubbard explains, home prices continue to go up in B.C. because there aren’t enough homes on the market, meaning buyers are competing with one another and driving up the prices.

Hubbard says that, in many municipalities, developers have to go through an “incredibly arduous” process to get new homes on the market, and that slow pace is keeping supply low.

The new budget, he says, doesn’t do anything to address that.

“We need developers to come to the table, see a piece of land, plan out a development, and be able to see profit at the end,” Hubbard says.

Developers aren’t seeing that happen, but “if there was something in the budget that would allow for a decrease in the time and risk capital that has to come to the table before a developer actually knows they can proceed with the development, I think this would seriously enhance the province’s ability to increase the inventory” and bring down prices.

Targeting the wrong people?

However, Read says the government is instead heavily taxing homeowners who don’t live in the province through a speculation tax, and that could force those people to pack up and leave, taking the money they would otherwise have spent in local communities with them.

She pointed out that about 10 per cent of buyers in the Okanagan are from Alberta, and will likely get hit by the new speculation tax. Many of them aren’t ultra-rich vacationers but average people who are retiring to the Okanagan or work in the oil fields.

Walker says he believes taxing speculators is a good thing, but “to just tax people that are planning their  retirement, or to tax people that have properties to just try and grow their portfolio a little bit, I don’t that’s necessarily the person that’s calling the problem.”

“These rules are not going to change things that much, because the problem is not what they (the government) think the problem is,” Walker adds.

Consequences ‘beyond what they intended’

Becuase of that, Read says the government’s taxing strategy could end up having consequences beyond what it intended.

“Every time government interferes it always causes different effects than they intend it to,” she says.

Read points out that the Okanagan real estate market was “already starting to stabilize” before the budget was released, with the thousands of new units coming to the market over the next couple of years set to have a “significant impact” on home prices.

“And then what happens? How will the government be accountable if they provide the catalyst to some kind of adjustment that leads to all kinds of empty buildings?” she asked.

“My concern is that industry wasn’t consulted. Where are the facts and data to support this?”


Downside of limited dual agency
Bill Hubbard - Feb 22 - Columnists

The world according to Bill

Image: Getty Images

The Real Estate business in B.C. is regulated by the superintendent of real estate, Michael Noseworthy.

Noseworthy has proposed many different changes to our business and most of them are great and protect the public. However, he has also proposed to ban the practice known as dual agency.

I find it interesting how Noseworthy and the supporters of the ban on dual agency package it up. They say it will create “clarity” and “transparency” for the consumer.They seem to like to hang their hat on the idea that they are on the white horse coming in to save the day from all us bad and greedy realtors.

But let’s have a serious look at exactly what could change when the ban goes through.

I have talked to many consumers who think dual agency is about commissions. It has nothing to do with commissions.

Right now, when a consumer is working with a realtor and they want to buy one of their listings the realtor has to get the consumers to sign two documents. Those are a “working with a realtor ” form and a “limited dual agency” form. These forms explicitly spell out what the realtor can and cannot do.

The realtor cannot discuss price, personal characteristics or motivation.  In other words, she can’t say she thinks the sellers will go to a certain price, or that they are motivated because they are getting a divorce, or that the buyers are going to be homeless in a month and therefore they need this house.

The realtor is obligated by law to be impartial in negotiations of price. They’re also obligated to disclose anything else: leaking in the basement, the roof is 25 years old and needs replacing, the lot across the street is going to be an apartment building, etc.

If the realtor does his job correctly the system works just fine and each party’s rights are protected. The consumer has the option to work with the realtor who knows all the details about the house, or get their own representation if they’re not comfortable with one realtor on both sides of the transaction.

How will things be different after limited dual agency is banned? First, the buyer who has spent time working with the realtor and building trust will be forced to go and find different representation if they want to buy the realtor’s listing.

They will have to go and find or be appointed a realtor who likely knows nothing about the house and will have to be brought up to speed on everything.

The realtor may, in some cases, set it up so the buyer is called an “unrepresented party.” In this case, the realtor has no obligation to disclose any material facts about the property to the buyer.

The biggest change is the buyer will not have the choice, and this is the crux of the issue.

Noseworthy is instituting this ban because there were a few realtors that handled the requirements poorly and put consumers in jeopardy.

The real problem, however, was realtors who grossly misrepresented themselves, went through the disciplinary process and got a mere $2,500 or $5,000 fine. They caused great heartache for consumers and they got a fine that did not even amount to the commission on the deal.

I have had realtors actually say to me that it is simply a cost of doing business. The problem was the punishment.

If Noseworthy thinks changing the rules is going to make the very small percentage of realtors who manipulate the system to their own gain and at the expense of a consumer suddenly wake up one and grab a bag of ethics he is sadly mistaken.

Not only that, the elimination of dual agency will create more opportunity for abuse, not less.

This change will allow many more people to be treated as unrepresented parties. Most of the time they will not know what this means regardless of the multiple pieces of paper they sign that they don’t read.

Unethical realtors will convince consumers to go into a contract as an unrepresented party where the realtor has far fewer obligations to protect that consumer.

Our business is like any other business. A vast majority of the realtors are ethical, caring people that take pride in doing their job and protecting people. A small percentage manipulate the system at the expense of unknowing buyers and sellers.

Changing the rules from something that works well if the rules are followed and people are allowed to make an informed decision to something that forces consumers to use a realtor they likely do not know, trust or want to use and provides less protection and greater possibility of abuse is just a recipe for disaster.  

The intricacies and long-term consequences of this change are not easy to figure out. A person would have to have years of experience understanding the buying and selling process and what consumers need and more importantly what they want in order to truly understand it.

With all due respect for the office of the superintendent, it simply no longer has that experience built into it. Consumers that would prefer to not have their choices taken away and would like to see realtors adhere to their rules and explain their options and allow them to make the decision of who they deal with; really should speak up.

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.

‘Irresponsible’ job posting
Alanna Kelly - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Do you have a university degree and want to become a teacher?

The Salmon Arm School District is looking for you.

“Due to a shortage of certified teachers, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is looking to hire individuals without a teaching certificate to replace absent teachers,” reads a job posting.

That posting, which was shared on Twitter, Facebook and numerous job hiring sites, states the successful applicants will perform normal duties of a teacher such as instruction, supervision, lesson preparation and marking for the day’s assignment.

President of the BC Teachers’ Federation Glen Hansman said the posting is irresponsible.

“We are really alarmed to be seeing a school district in a super desirable part of the province advertised in just general classroom position for any old person with a university degree.”

He said this is the first time he has seen a posting like this for the Okanagan.

“Teaching isn’t just like running a birthday party for 30 children.”

“It is not just like ‘I am an expert on biology and now I am going to teach you Grade 6 science,’ no sorry… there is an art and it is a profession for a reason,” laughed Hansman.

Statistics Canada states teachers working in BC make 11,818 less than teachers working in Alberta.

“BC Teachers starting salary is pathetic compared to the rest of the country,” said Hansman.

After 15 years of experience, teachers in BC would make 17,540 less than teachers with the same experience in Alberta.

“The province needs to ensure that school district’s have the ability to hire certified, qualified teachers,” he said.

Hansman points the blame at the previous government for cutting and underfunding teaching jobs.

Petition for new pool
Darren Handschuh - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Image: File photo
A online petition is asking people to tell the mayor area citizens want a new aquatic centre.

An online petition is asking people to tell the mayor that area citizens want a new aquatic centre, but Akbal Mund said a new pool is already on the radar.

The petition is trying to collect 500 names and as of Wednesday afternoon, it was sitting at just over 200.

Mund said he is aware of the petition and a new aquatic centre is scheduled to be talked about in 2019.

“It will be part of the master recreation plan that is being undertaken,” said Mund, adding a new aquatic centre was discussed by the current council shortly after they were elected.

“We had other amenities that were coming online like Kal Tire North. You have to go one at a time. You can’t just build a bunch of amenities,” he said, adding public approval is needed for all projects of such magnitude.

“The next thing is the cultural centre and museum. That might make the referendum, hopefully this time around and if it does then I think you will look at the pool on the next round,” said Mund. “You’re looking at an investment of $35-40 million.”

The petition states: “Swimming and water fitness is a growing culture in our area. Not only is it great for wellness, competition and recreation, but it is also a necessary life skill living in the Okanagan. The Vernon Kokanee Swim Club have been a well represented and respected fixture in Vernon and the province for over 50 years! The citizens of this area are requesting the planning, funding and construction of a 50m, eight-lane multi-purpose facility that will serve this need for many years. We have outgrown our current facility, which is too small and inadequate in serving the needs of the over 60,000 citizens in Greater Vernon, Coldstream, and surrounding towns. We in Vernon, are ideally located for a large complex: a growing community on Hwy 97, 25 minutes from an International Airport, with all-season sports and tourism attractions. We, as a forward thinking community, are encouraging our leaders to begin this process now as we pledge our support for a new Regional Aquatic Centre.”

Winter Market at Predator
Chantelle Deacon - Feb 22 - Biz Releases

Predator Ridge and Craft Culture are hosting their first annual Winter Artisan Market at the resort this weekend.

The event will feature 32 craft and artisan vendors, live music, outdoor fire pits and food options.

“We’re really looking forward to it, it’s a completely different venue,” said Karalyn Lockhart, owner of Craft Culture. “We will have 32 vendors set up indoors, which is the feature of the event.”

“Outside when guests arrive you can also get some food, there will be fire pits set up with marshmallows and we’ll have live music as well.”

Three vendors that will be at the market this weekend were available for interviews on Wednesday prior to the event.

“We have a line of dinners and spices and how they work is this here is what’s in your pack,” said Carmal O’Connell, owner of BC Buds Garlic. “When you open it up you get a shopping list and how to make a dinner but what’s cool is there is no gluten, MSG, salt or preservatives, the main ingredient is the garlic that we grow.”

“We actually do all from cutting boards to charcuterie boards, cheese boards, barbecue scrapers, herb strippers, everything out of wood,” said Bruce Crawford, owner of Crawford Creek Designs. “We try to use as much reclaimed and repurposed wood as we possibly can and we source a lot of it from local craft mills.”

“I’m a First Nation artist from Nlaka’pamux Nation and I do Native art, graphic pencil, coloured pencils and inks,” said Terry Thomson, owner of Thomson’s Finest Art. “I blend nature, First Nation design and pictures of elders in my work.”

The family-friendly event is taking place over the course of two days from Feb. 24 to 25.

The by donation market kicks off at 10 a.m. both days and finishes at 4 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

All money raised goes towards the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative.

Greyhound bus cuts official
Colton Davies - Feb 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Greyhound made official on Wednesday that the company is dropping its bus routes through the entire Similkameen Valley, after receiving approval from the province’s Passenger Transportation Board.

The extent of the cuts also includes all routes through Northern B.C. and various other main routes across the province.

Greyhound will be changing its route from Osoyoos to Vancouver to go through Kelowna instead of the Similkameen — eliminating service in Keremeos, Hedley, Princeton, Eastgate and Manning Park.

Further north in the region, Greyhound is also doing away with its route from Kelowna to Kamloops, which eliminates stops in Oyama, Falkland, Westwold and Monte Lake.

The cuts will come into effect on May 31.

The company applied to the PTB for the route changes late last summer, and said the affected routes have had a 51 per cent drop in ridership since 2010.

“We regret having to do this and appreciate the (PTB’s) acknowledgement of the difficult circumstances under which we’ve been operating over the past several years,” Stuart Kendrick said, senior vice president of Greyhound Canada.

The Regional District Okanagan Similkameen lobbied for months about the “urgent need” to maintain long-haul bus service for its rural residents.

With its own bus route cuts imminent, Greyhound proposed that the provincial government create a “connecting communities fund,” for another private bus company that might be interested.

The fund proposes to create a privatized rural bus service for participating municipalities.

The Ministry of Transportation didn’t rule out the possibility of creating that service, but indicated it would wait for the PTB’s decision on Greyhound’s proposed cuts before making any decision.

A full list of the route changes announced by Greyhound on Wednesday can be found here.

Playtime grand opening
Okanagan Edge Staff - Feb 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Facebook

Kelowna’s newly rebranded Playtime Casino will officially launch its new brand at a grand opening March 1.

The former Lake City Casino got a fresh face this year thanks to a $3.6 million renovation that included a beefed-up gaming floor and new entertainment and eating options.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Limited runs the casino, along with four others in the B.C. Interior, and several others further afield.

When the renovations on the new Playtime Casino began late last year Tanya Gabara, Gateway’s director of public relations, told Okanagan Edge they were part of a “very aggressive growth and development strategy” the company was implementing at its properties across the country.

The goal, she said, is to bring the company’s “signature brands” into every one of its 26 properties, and consolidate the overall branding of its casinos.

Along with the launch of its new brand, March 1, Gateway will also kick off a fundraising campaign for the Karis Support Society.

Throughout March, every time customers buy wings or a signature cocktail Gateway will make a small donation to Karis. Playtime Casino says it will match all donations up to $5,000.

Karis Support Society is a non-profit organization that provides recovery-focused counselling, programming, and support to women within a supportive home environment.

“I am thrilled our employees have selected Karis as the charity partner for our Grand Opening. They are an organization that supports the most vulnerable in our community and guides them towards a better life. I know they will be able to do great things with this donation,” said Clarissa Pruden, Playtime’s general manager.

LNIB signs timber agreement
Okanagan Edge Staff - Feb 21 - Biz Releases

Image: Contributed

Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, Stuwix Resources, and Aspen Planers Announce Alliance Agreement

Lower Nicola Indian Band Development Corporation, Stuwix Resources Ltd., and Aspen Planers Ltd. they have signed a long-term agreement that will help the parties negotiate timber their timber and sawmill interests in the Nicola Valley.

The agreement is a formal commitment between the LNIBDC, Stuwix, and Aspen to “identify and pursue new economic opportunities and commercial investments, as well as to establish a

collaborative forest management planning and operations process” for their various regional timber interests.

According to the LNIBDC, the “cornerstone” of the new alliance will be harnessing the local expertise in the communities to create more employment opportunities.

“As both LNIBDC and Stuwix understand the importance of Aspen’s sawmilling operations to Merritt and the area’s First Nations, this new partnership will provide Aspen additional timber supply needed to maintain their operations, while enabling the First Nations community to support its own economic development,” a news release announcing the partnership states.

Chief Aaron Sumexheltza, the chair of the LNIDC, said the corporation wants to “ensure the generations to come will benefit from sustainable jobs and economic opportunities.”

“We rely on the forest products industry to help create wealth and to sustain our community’s growth. Our partnership with Aspen will realize many opportunities for our contractors, members and our nation that will benefit us now and in the long term.”

“By working together to explore mutually beneficial opportunities, we are embarking on a path that is good for both business and our communities, which is one of our core principles,” said Aspen’s CEO, Surinder Ghog.

The newly-minted partnership seeks to “realize the maximum value of forest licences” by utilizing Stuwix’s and Aspen’s expertise in forest management, which includes integrating First Nations principles and values throughout the regional timber supply areas.

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