Sep 22, 2012 / 5:00 am
There's something fishy going on for the owners of Okanagan Koi and Water Gardens.
They have been involved in a battle with the provincial Ministry of Highways ever since work began on the upgrade of Highway 33.
On Friday, the company and their supporters took their protest to the ministry's offices on St. Paul Street.
"The ministry has decided in their infinite wisdom to ignore a contract that they've been in breach of for the last two and a half years, and they're going to block off our business access," says owner Dayleen Van Ryswyk.
"In it's place, they've threatened to put a driveway that the engineers have deemed to be an unacceptable risk to public safety."
Van Ryswyk says the ministry has given them two options for access to their property off of the newly redesigned highway, and neither of them are acceptable.
"One option is illegal and doesn't work, and we've proved that with engineers. The other option we agreed to...and then they (the Ministry) attached a condition to it that we can't accept."
She says that condition asks the Van Ryswyks to sign away their rights to be able to take them to court for damages. That's unacceptable to us. There's been $1.1 million in damages (to their business) with what they want to do and we would like our day in court."
"We're here in protest, one because they're going to ignore the contract that they're already in breach of, and two, they're going to make permanent solutions to this intersection of Garner Road and Highway 33 that are going to harm the public."
The company hired Ecora Engineering to perform an assessment of the plans and their conclusion agrees with Van Ryswyk's claims the ministry proposals are unsafe.
After a design review Ecora concluded only one of three options (the two proposed by the ministry and the pre-existing entrance) "generally conforms to...TAC guidelines and the City of Kelowna bylaws."
Also, the report says, only one proposal can be completed within the highway's right of way, but "this is not a sufficient reason to override concerns with public safety and functionality," and is an "unacceptable risk to public safety."
The second "significantly exceed(s) the City of Kelowna Bylaws...the design contains vertical curves...which contravene the BC Building Code and consequently cannot be seen as being acceptable."
The pre-existing entrance "did not strictly conform to TAC guidelines...however the entrance did provide an adequate safe approach grade and was located well clear of the intersection of Highway 33 and Garner Road. In our opinion, the south entrance is the only one of the three options which provides a similar level of safety to the pre-existing condition."
The trouble is, the already completed roadwork has eliminated that entrance and leaves the access to the business in the middle of the Garner Road intersection.
Friday's protest was prompted by the ministry's decision to begin work on the new access on Monday, without an agreement.
"Their solution is to move it over slightly, but leave it in the intersection, so pretty much exactly as it is, against engineering advice, and just walk away from the contract and say 'You know what? You don't like what we've done then you can sue us later.' In the meantime my business is closed, my family is in the street and the public is left totally at risk."
All of which leaves Van Ryswyk frustrated with the ministry's seeming refusal to work more cooperatively with them.
"In my opinion they've decided that they're going to squish us like bugs because we stood up to them."
Ministry of Highways spokesperson Murray Tekano says "We're in active negotiations with the Van Ryswyks and their legal council, and it's really inappropriate for me to comment any further about it at this time."
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