Penticton & South Okanagan News
Residents made it clear at an RDOS meeting held Tuesday night in Oliver, that the loss of signs by Highway 97 will negatively impact their businesses.
One after another, they stood up to speak passionately about the highway signage enforcement project planned for south of Oliver down to Osoyoos.
"All of those signs down on the highway are from hard working people who have made the South Okanagan what it is," said Jim Moore, owner of Road 6 B& B. "Those signs make our businesses work, without them my business would be zero."
The RDOS held the meeting at the Oliver Community Centre to advise people of the project they are undertaking and to hear their questions, concerns and statements of support.
Information boards were set up in the room and a power point presentation was given on the project by RDOS and Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure representatives.
"This is a chance to speak in an open forum and depending on what happens and how the RDOS board feels, we could have a public hearing," said Area C director Allan Patton.
Details provided by the representatives, included that the initiative was started by the RDOS in late 2012 due to public complaints and directors' concerns.
Most of the concerns were based on visual clutter and road safety.
A partnership was subsequently formed with the ministry and an enforcement strategy established in 2013.
The first phase from Road 1 to 21, south of Oliver, kicked off in early 2014. The second phase will be from Road 21 to the US border.
Information posted for people to read as they entered the room was on RDOS signage provisions and Highway Right of Way signage, the enforcement process and consultation on the matter.
Included in the highway right of way signage is standard traffic signs, service and attraction signs, wine route program, exceptions such as service clubs and churches and temporary real estate signs for properties adjacent to the highway.
The problem being, according to Jeff Wiseman with the ministry, that for some years they have allowed the number of signs in the right of way to go unchecked, with the result being the number of signs has proliferated.
"Sheer volume has become a distraction," he said. "With the number of signs taking away from more important signs."
Despite the explanation, many residents seemed confused by what the RDOS was trying to do, while others asked what kind of research had been done to back up the safety claims.
A few drew attention to dangerous stretches of highway in the area, saying the RDOS should be looking at that instead of cracking down on signs.
Still, time and time again, it was the worry about the impact on businesses they spoke up about.
"We have a very small window to cash in on and we need to attract everybody on the highway," said Randy Toor with Desert Hills Estate Winery. "Let us have nice neat signs on private property."
Greg Thorp, the owner of Riverside Garden Centre in Oliver, described the sign removal effort as discrimination.
"They are coming after us because we are farmers, low hanging fruit," he said.
The meeting grew heated at times, with Patton asking people to be quiet and wait their turns to speak.
He, as well as other representatives listened carefully to the concerns, with Patton telling the crowd, 'Somehow we have to find something that works for everybody.'
Still, he added, aesthetics are important and there is no getting around that.
"This is a beautiful area," he said. "If we see signage after signage, no one is seeing the area."
Osoyoos is one of the top 16 finalists in the 2014 Kraft Hockeyville competition.
The South Okangan town learned about the placement, when an announcement was made during Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday.
What it means, according to Gerald Davis, director of community services, is Osoyoos will receive $25,000 toward upgrades at the Sun Bowl Arena.
"It's awesome. It's fantastic," said Davis. "Just really, really good."
After Saturday's announcement, they opened up the voting lines, until 9 p.m., Pacific Standard Time Monday night.
On March 15, during Hockey Night in Canada they will announce the top two finalists from the east and top two from the west.
"If we are lucky enough to be in the top two, the minimum amount won at that point is $50,000," said Davis.
Voting is again opened up from March 15 to 17, and the top two will be announced March 22.
If Osoyoos makes it to the top two, the amount won will be $100,000 toward arena upgrades.
There is a third voting period from March 22 to 24, and an overall winner is announced on April 5.
That winner gets to host an NHL pre-season game and receive a visit from CBC.
"It's all very exciting," said Davis.
The Shaw Centre in Salmon Arm is also in the top 16.
To vote go online here.
Summerland council did not vote, as expected, on a land swap issue at Monday's meeting.
Instead Mayor Janice Perrino told the large crowd gathered that there will be one or possibly two town hall meetings and a second public hearing on the matter.
Perrino said the main reason for the decision was as many as 50 people could not get into the public hearing held March 3.
"People who were locked out need to be heard, before we can do this," she said. "We're going to give you as much information as we can."
It was the second and third reading of a new Official Community Plan amendment bylaw, urban growth strategy plan, that would exclude more than 80 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve and include just over 90 hectares, that was held off on.
Those in attendance were invited to tentatively put the first Monday in April on their calendars for the town hall meeting, and staff will try to book Centre Stage Theatre.
It is expected that all information will be brought forward to the next public meeting.
There has been strong opposition to the swap, with hundreds of people attending the first hearing at the Arena Banquet Room.
The opponents say under the new plan, the over 80 hectares of flat arable farm land will be swapped out of the ALR, while the just over 90 hectares of rocky hilly land, removed from the ALR in 2005, would be swapped to compensate.
There has been strong support for a movement known as Stop the Swap. A rally was held on the issue, a petition has been signed and any meetings on the matter have been well attended.
After Perrino made her announcement, at the start of Monday's meeting, most of the 60 people attending left.
Erin Carlson, the leader of Stop the Swap, said there are a lot of people in the community looking forward to having their say.
"This has been rushed to get done fast," she said.
Summerland resident David Finn, said he was disappointed the vote didn't happen.
"I think they should have the courage to make a decision," he said. "They are worried about it. The longer they wait, the less people will be there."
Perrino, however, stressed during the meeting that there wasn't a single person who enjoyed what they were putting the community through and that she wants residents to get real answers.
The District of Summerland has asked for public feedback on the matter, throughout the urban growth strategy planning process.
Prior to the last public hearing, there was an open house where residents were invited to talk to staff, view maps and learn more about what comes next.
Zoe Kirk, RDOS water conservation ambassador, is providing free workshops on rainwater harvesting using rain barrels.
When done correctly, according to Kirk, the barrels are a cheap and effective way to collect water, save money and divert water away from foundations.
Kirk will lead participants through the simple steps of thinking where to place bins, how to divert water from eavestroughs and how to winterize. The workshop will help homeowners understand what set up would work best for their specific home.
The barrels will not be sold as part of this pre-sale, but Kirk will provide information on what to look for if buying or building a rain harvesting system.
The next Penticton Harvesting the Heavens with Rain Barrels workshop will be at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 16 at the RONA Penticton.
Information on workshops in other areas is available on the RDOS website.
Al Sismey, regional Crime Stoppers coordinator for the South Okanagan Similkameen area, presented the 2013 Crime Stoppers year end report at the recent Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board meeting.
Among the items he focused on were Crime Stoppers' efforts in 2013, the fact it is a community program, not a police program, the number of tips received in 2013, and its future.
The latter was touched on when Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, also a board director, asked if the program was at risk.
To which Sismey responded he understood it was, with the police wanting his position remarried with crime prevention.
Further information on what's next is expected to be provided in a presentation by Penticton RCMP Inspector Kevin Hewco at the next RDOS meeting on March 20.
An Osoyoos man has received the 2014 Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama.
JF Launier received the prestigious award over the weekend for his 1964 Buick Riviera.
Launier is the owner of JF Kustoms in Osoyoos.
The Ridler is the most prestigious award for custom car builders. Judges first select the top eight vehicles, called the 'Great 8', to contend for the Ridler. It's JF's 3rd 'Great 8' car and his first Ridler Award.
Don Ridler, who the award is named for, was the first professional promoter hired by the Michigan Hot Rod Association to assist them with the fledgling Autorama in the 1950s.
Ridler died in 1963 at the age of 54. It was immediately decided that an award be created to honour his memory.
Ridler's forte was his creativity, and it was further determined that the award would honour individuals who were equally creative in building cars.
Launier was on the road Monday, and could not be immediately reached for comment.
Summerland council will meet tonight, Monday, for the second and third readings of a new Official Community Plan that would remove more than 80 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Council has already voted once in favour of the plan.
According to those opposed, under this new plan, the over 80 hectares of flat arable farm land would be swapped out of the ALR, while just over 90 hectares of rocky, hilly land, removed from the ALR in 2005, would be swapped to compensate.
Hundreds of people attended a public hearing on the contentious issue on March 3. Many of whom are active in the Stop the Swap movement, which has spoken out against the swap.
The space at the Arena Banquet Room was so packed with people, that some had to be turned away.
The majority of speakers were opposed to the plan, with concerns ranging from a need for agricultural land while California grapples with a drought, the need to preserve the land for future generations, an oversupply of housing and losing the beauty which draws people to Summerland.
A handful of people showed support, with some saying the downtown is a good place to put homes, because it will bring business to the area.
Erin Carlson, the organizer of Stop the Swap, said she was feeling cautiously optimistic in advance of the vote.
"So far our focus has been on getting the attention of the Agricultural Land Commission," she said. "But after such an overwhelming show of public support, we hope the council will listen to the people."
The district of Summerland has asked for pubic feedback on the matter, throughout the planning process.
Prior to the public hearing, there was a open house where residents were invited to view maps, talk to staff and learn about what comes next.
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Town of Oliver
Town of Osoyoos
Town of Keremeos
Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen
Penticton & Wine Country Chamber
Penticton Discussion Forum
District of Summerland
Summerland Chamber & Tourism
School District 67 - Okanagan Skaha
School District 53 - Okanagan Similkameen
Okanagan Regional Library
Township of Hedley