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Final day of advance voting

Today is the last day to cast ballots in Lake Country ahead of Saturday's referendum.

Advance polls will be open Tuesday at Lake Country Municipal Hall until 8 p.m.

Turnout has been brisk over the first four days of advance voting, with 2,080 votes being cast in polls held in each ward of the municipality (Winfield, Oyama, Carr's Landing and Okanagan Centre).

To date, 22.3 per cent of the estimated 9,315 eligible voters have voted.

Residents of Lake Country are being asked if they approve the borrowing of up to $2.6 million to purchase half of the abandoned CN Rail corridor running through the municipality. The City of Kelowna is lending Lake Country the funds to purchase the other half.

The specific question on the ballot reads:

“Are you in favour of the District of Lake Country adopting Load Authorization Bylaw (Okanagan Rail Corridor) 906, 2014 to authorize the borrowing of up to Two Million Six Hundred and Fifteen Thousand Dollars (2,615,000) to fund the purchase of a 50 per cent share of 16 kilometres of the Okanagan Rail Corridor within District boundaries?”

Other Okanagan jurisdictions have already set aside funds to purchase the nearly 50-kilometre corridor, which runs from Kelowna to Coldstream.

The total purchase price is $22 million. The province is also kicking in $7.2 million, approximately one-third of the cash needed to satisfy CN Rail.

General voting day in Lake Country is this Saturday. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. at George Elliot Secondary School.

When arriving at the polling station, voters will be registered as electors by showing two pieces of identification.  The identification must prove the voter’s residency and identity, including one piece with a signature. Accepted identification includes:

  • B.C. driver’s licence
  • B.C. identification card
  • ICBC certificate of insurance
  • Social Insurance Number card
  • Citizenship card
  • Credit or debit card
  • Current utility bill (with address)

Non-resident property electors will need identification proving identity and proof of sole or joint ownership of property in Lake Country.



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Playground sought for park

The City of Kelowna is looking to the federal government to help fund a proposed all-inclusive playground at Rutland Centennial Park.

The city will apply for a $50,000 grant from Employment and Social Development Canada. The grant is for construction of community facilities that improve accessibility.

Parks planner Barb Davidson said staff reviewed a number of opportunities throughout the city and determined the project would be the best fit to meet the grant criteria. The playground also fits within the Centennial Park Master Plan.

The playground was a popular feature identified by the public during an open house earlier this year.

"While it is high profile and located within the Rutland Town Centre, Centennial Park is also surrounded by a number of residential neighbourhoods with families and children," Davidson told city council.

"Therefore, an inclusive playground providing opportunities for children of all ages and abilities is warranted."

Davidson said the playground would be similar in scope to one at the Parkinson Rec Centre, with the added desire to include some literacy components.

"Inclusive play is more than just universal accessibility," added Davidson. "It's breaking down physical and social barriers by creating environments that increase the playability of children of diverse abilities, ethnic, social and economic backgrounds."

Grant decisions will be made in the fall. If the city is successful, construction would begin in 2016.

There is room for a 600-square-metre playground at the site.

Davidson said, if successful, the playground would likely be constructed in two phases. The first would be about 450 square metres in size, with community partners sought to help with costs to fund the rest.



Extra goes Independent

A new grocery store has opened up in Capri Centre.

Your Independent Grocer has taken the place of Extra Foods, and previous store mananger Peter Boyd is the new owner.

“I’m very excited to be a part of the neighbourhood and to serve our customers,” says Boyd. “My team and I are committed to bringing fresh food, quality products and superior customer service in a one-stop grocery store.”

The store is still part of the Loblaw empire and will provide customers with quality food, great service and a local grocer with 30 years of experience.

The company said in a press release its Meals to Go department will feature From our Chefs, a line of ready-to-eat meals prepared from global-award-winning recipes, along with daily made pizzas, hot entrees, soup, sandwiches and salads. Fans of President Choice and no-name products will also find those items still on the shelves. 

Customers of the Kelowna store will also enjoy an expanded natural value selection, an on-site juice bar and a full-service bakery and meat department.

The location also added 30 new positions in its transition from the previous grocery store tenant, bringing the total number of employees to 130.

"Boyd and his team look forward to contributing to the well-being of the Kelowna community," the press release stated.

This store will continue to raise food and funds during its bi-annual food drive, benefiting the Kelowna Food Bank.



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Local builder gives a hoot

A 27-year-old chip wood building that has stood on the grounds of the South Okanagan Rehabilitation Centre for Owls since its inception is no longer.

The building will be replaced with a brand-new donated structure that was constructed by a Kelowna company.

The owners of Chaparral Industries have supported SORCO for some time, donating materials when needed, and jumped at the chance to construct a building for the non-profit group.

Chaparral project manager Terry Mitchell says SORCO is important to the Okanagan, and the company wanted to give back.

“Seeing how they’ve progressed from their old chip building, it is just excellent. They are a world presence; they are not just for the Okanagan Valley, they are doing something for the environment that you wouldn’t be able to replicate anywhere else.”

The building will be used as SORCO's food centre, says spokesman Ray Putnam.

“We needed a new building to house the food centre, which is where we grow and breed rats for the raptors. They have to have a good protein source, so we have this new building that we can raise rats in,” he explains.

The modular builder will finish constructing the food centre in coming days and ship it down to Oliver. Mitchell says the building is small compared to what the company usually puts together.

“It’s 14 feet by 18 feet. It does have an air conditioner, it does have some baseboard heat, so it is controlled and it has circulation fan in it to control any mustiness in it that may be produced in that kind of environment."

SORCO cares for injured raptors and owls, and Putnam says the food centre will play an important role in their rehabilitation.

“Once the birds are healed, we will take them back to the area they were located. It is the responsibility of our organization to take them back within 10 kilometres of where they were found.”

An open house will be held at SORCO on May 3, and it will be the the only time in the year the public can tour the centre, view the birds and check out the new food centre.



4 things you need to know

Castanet's AM Update for Tuesday, April 21.

YouTube


Police seek missing youth

Kelowna police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating a missing boy.

Kyle Davidson, 15, was last seen early Monday morning and his parents are concerned that his recent behaviour has been out of character.

 He is described as:

  • 5 foot 8 inches tall
  • 130 pounds
  • short brown hair
  • wearing jeans
  • T-shirt
  • Dark baseball cap

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300.



Strathcona building a go

City council has given the final go-ahead for a three-and-a-half storey mixed-use development behind KGH.

The development at the corner of Strathcona Avenue and Abbott Street is on the edge of the city's heritage zone.

It would include a ground-level cafe and residential unit, doctor's offices on the second floor and two apartments on the top floor.

Monday's application comes six months after a raucous public hearing that went well in to the wee hours of the morning.

Council approved the original application at 1:30 a.m. following that public hearing, but added several conditions to be met before a development permit would be issued.

Monday's application was meant to deal with changes to the development as a result of that meeting and the conditions placed upon it.

Urban planning manager Ryan Smith said all of the requirements placed on the development by council had been met to staff's satisfaction, including engineering requirements, elimination of some of the setback variances associated with the original proposal and a softening of the edges of the building.

Smith also said some heritage elements have been added to better match the look of the area.

"It is less the architecture and more the colour palate of the building and the fact the colours are subdued," said Smith.

"You don't have the stark whites. You don't have bright, vivid colours. They are more indicative of colours you might find in the heritage area."

He added staff often caution developers about creating 'fake heritage' in and around heritage areas.

"From a staff perspective, it is important that new architecture gets created in and around the heritage conservation area that will be worth protecting 50 or 60 years from now as well."

While council supported the project, there was some reluctance.

"From my perspective, it really isn't in line with the form and character. But, what is the future going to be? Is this a 100-year building? What's the new way that's going to maintain a heritage area of the future?" asked Coun. Brad Sieben.

"I think this one maybe transitions that way, but I think we have to look at our heritage form and character guidelines and build some latitude into it to plan what is going to stand the test of time."

"I do see this as a transition lot, a lot between Strathcona Park, the Abbott Street corridor and the Kelowna General Hospital campus. It's an interesting transition point, and I think they have very nicely found a way to do that transition," said Coun. Luke Stack.

"I think the applicant was very wise to listen to the public comment and made the building a little smaller. They tried to incorporate some heritage features into it and really tried to be a good neighbour because those who were opposed were very adamantly opposed to it."

Only Coun. Charlie Hodge voted against the project.

"It's a beautiful building, I like it, but I don't think it's in the right spot. I don't believe it is in keeping with the form or character of the area," said Hodge.

"Historically, this has been one of the character areas that defines Kelowna. Old Kelowna is defined by the Abbott Street corridor, and there is a huge historical component to that part of our community that I feel this does not fit with."

In voting in favour, Mayor Colin Basran stated that had KGH purchased the land it would likely be a boxy building or a parkade.



Latte talk about empty lot

City council begrudgingly said yes to a new commercial development in Rutland.

The project would be situated at the northeast corner of Rutland Road North and Highway 33. The land has been vacant since 1995.

The development would include three food-primary businesses, Starbucks, a second Memphis Blues Restaurant and Domino's Pizza.

Council was torn between the need to develop an area that has been vacant for more than two decades and a concern over traffic congestion with the placement of the Starbucks drive-thru.

"I have to say I'm still very concerned a drive-thru is on the corner here, but I also know it has been in a rather sad state for a number of years," said Coun. Gail Given.

"Hearing from staff that this is not a 100 year building ... this may be the interim step to something bigger and better another 30 years into the future. I am prepared to go along on this particular one just to see something new happen on that corner."

Developer Gary Tebbutt has owned the property for three to four years.

He told council he has looked at almost every conceivable way of trying to develop the property, leading him to this particular proposal.

"We were as concerned as ... you are asking about the stacking and the drive-thru, so we hired CTQ (Consultants) and their traffic engineering department to measure the traffic counts and the number of cars that go into the drive-thru at two Starbucks," said Tebbutt.

"The one we wanted to make sure they did was the one at the corner of Highway 97 and Gordon."

Tebbutt said that drive-thru is probably the busiest in the Okanagan, and he has never been there when the traffic was extended beyond the end of the building.

"We also measured two of the busiest Tim Hortons as well. I don't know what it is, but they have more than 300 per cent greater drive-thru traffic relative to their square footage than a Starbucks has."

Tebbutt indicated Starbucks is particular about how well each location functions. He said the company has agreed to a lease for up to 20 years and is happy with the way the site and drive-thru is configured.

"The reason I'm really concerned is I'm not sure what else we would do with this corner if we weren't able to get this particular application to move forward," said Tebbutt.

"If you look at our site coverage, we've gone way below what's required. If you look at our parking, we've exceeded what's required."

Tebbutt said he has met with the Uptown Rutland Association, Rutland Business Association and adjacent neighbours, and everybody supports the application.

"I understand how difficult this site has been to develop and we've heard part of the reason why it's been hard to develop is because of the requirements of the (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)," added Mayor Colin Basran.

"Am I thrilled to have a drive-thru on the corner? Not necessarily. But it sure is a heck of a lot better than what it is now. I know Mr. Tebbutt has tried for three-plus years to try and find something that works where tenants would want to come. He finally has found that balance."

While it won't please everybody, Basran said it will help the continued evolution of the Rutland Town Centre.

"(In the future), I see parents dropping their kids off to play soccer at a revitalized Centennial Park, leaving their car in the park and walking over to grab a coffee, maybe grab a meal while their kids are playing soccer in a brand new park.

"Now, all of a sudden, we have a brand-new town centre concept and feel in Rutland we have been trying to get for so long. This is another great step in that evolution."



Corks ready to pop

This year’s Okanagan Spring Wine Festival is set to be the largest event ever, with more than 90 culinary and wine activities from Osoyoos to Oyama.

The fun kicks off April 30 with the Best of Varietal Wine Awards and will wrap up with Mother’s Day winery brunches on May 10.

The spring festival coincides with bud break, a time of year the valley’s vintners eagerly await.

During the 11-day festival, see how the tastemakers of the Okanagan and Similkameen explore their creative side with artisan wineries, micro-breweries and distilleries and local restaurants.

Blair Baldwin, general manager of the Okanagan Wine Festivals Society, says from cycling wine country to touring tasting rooms and vineyard picnics, it’s easy to see why the Okanagan was recently named among the top 10 wine touring destinations in the world by Huffington Post, USA Today and Wine Enthusiast.

“We invite everyone to come sample the burgeoning craft wine, beer and fruit liquor industry which is taking place here," says Baldwin.

The festival is moving toward incorporating more of an encompassing culture of the Okanagan which includes micro-breweries, fruit wineries and distilleries.

Baldwin says at signature events, such as the WestJet Wine Tasting, only wine will be poured but if businesses want to create an event during the festival in which they pour a beverage made of 100 per cent B.C. fruit the OWFS welcomes them to do so.

"It's all about supporting each other and to create an event that is outside wine but involves B.C. fruit then it's part of the culture we subscribe too."

Fifteen years ago, Baldwin says, there was only wine poured at the events but slowly bread and cheese were introduced to different areas of the festival.

"We are growing to be more than just wine, although we are all about wine culture and are driven by wine we want the micro-breweries and places like Okanagan Spirits to be involved."

New festival highlights this year include:

  • Iron Sommelier: B.C. wine and food paring competition.
  • Sensory wine and viticulture workshops at Okanagan College
  • Live music and record spinning DJs in the many wineries

To find out more click here.



Kelowna visionary passes

The man who was partly responsible for some of Kelowna's richest treasures has passed away.

Harold Hall, who worked for the city from 1968 until he retired in 1995, passed away last Thursday.

Hall held positions including director of finance and the director of corporate services with the city.

During that time, Hall was instrumental in negotiations to secure city interests in development of Kelowna's waterfront, including the boardwalk, Tugboat Beach and the rest of what is now known as Waterfront Park.

He was also responsible for the negotiations with BC Transit that initiated our current transit system.

Upon his retirement, Hall volunteered with the Friends of Mission Creek and worked with municipal partners to negotiate land donations, grants and other fundraising that secured the Mission Creek Greenway.

"His life's work as a city employee, then as a volunteer, has clearly shaped some of the most enjoyed parts of our community," said Mayor Colin Basran, speaking of Hall at the end of Monday's council meeting.

"He has clearly been a part of shaping what is an amazing city we currently live in. Our condolences to his family."



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