Management at Kelowna Mountain are celebrating after recently learning they have been issued an occupancy permit for what they hope will someday become the Okanagan’s biggest tourist destination.
The issue had been one of contention between the developers and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan (RDCO) for months, ever since the mountain applied for a building permit to construct their Welcome Center in April 2012.
The application described the building as having a ground floor space of 535 square metres, to be used as a lobby and retail space. But the RDCO was concerned that the building’s size and proposed uses were not permitted under the area's zoning laws.
“Basically the occupancy has been given as per the zoning of that property and the uses that are available for that property,” says Bruce Smith, RDCO communications officer
In August of last year the RDCO signed off on the final building inspection and said it could be used subject to the zoning regulations applicable to the property.
On Jan 23, a second letter was sent to Kelowna Mountain, prior to the court hearing the court challenge, stating no further inspections were necessary and the project was ready for use based on plans and drawings submitted with the building permit.
“That was a big victory for us. The occupancy permit that was issued had zero restrictions in it; we’re very happy about that and looking forward to operating,” says developer Mark Consiglio.
Another issue that went to court revolved around the definition of “agri tourism”.
That is one of the permitted uses for the land, but the RDCO argued it was not what was being built on the mountain.
Developers are doing their best to navigate around that, and are in the process of completing their first vineyard on the property. One acre has already been planted and another is in progress. They hope to develop BC’s first vineyard park on the property.
They petitioned the BC Supreme Court to clarify or interpret the definition, but in the end, Madam Justice Holmes denied their petition. Consiglio has said they will now take it to the BC Court of Appeal.
“One of the things the judge did was to clarify that the restriction to 100 seats that we’re allowed to have only applies to the inside of the building (welcome center), not outside,” he says.
“In particular to the 1,000 seat amphitheater which we built. So that of course is great news to us that we can operate our amphitheater under our existing zoning.”
Having already spent $50-million on the project, Consiglio says they will match that over the next year or two as they continue to expand the project.
The mountain is expected to officially open to the public over the Easter long weekend.