West Kelowna  

Debating rainbow crosswalk

The District of Peachland is considering installing a rainbow crosswalk.

Council debated a request this week to install the multi-coloured crosswalk at the intersection of Third Street and Beach Avenue.

Installation would be conducted by a professional line painting contractor at a cost of between $1,000 and $1,500.

But, instead of authorizing the work, council asked staff to bring back a report on the rationale behind rainbow crosswalks.

Several communities across the Okanagan have installed the crosswalks over the past number of years.

Rainbow crosswalks are a visible show of inclusivity of LGBTQ individuals in the community.


WFN elects new Chief

Westbank First Nation has a new Chief.

Christopher Raymond Derickson was elected to the band's top position in voting conducted Thursday.

Derickson defeated Roxanne Lindley, who served just one term after being elected the first female Chief of the band three years ago.

He polled 200 votes, 26 more than Lindley.

In all, 377 votes were cast. One ballot was rejected. That works out to 60 per cent of the 631 eligible voters.

Derickson, who sat as a councillor since 2012, will preside over a council featuring three new faces. 

First-time candidates Jordan Coble and Andrea Alexander topped the polls, picking up 226 and 206 votes, respectively.

Lorrie Hogaboam, who has had a seat on previous councils was also elected.

Fernanda Alexander was the only incumbent to be re-elected to council.

Councillors Brian Eli and Thomas Konek failed in their bids for re-election.

The new council will be sworn in and hold their first meeting next Tuesday.

Cougar sighting near school

Parents and residents are being warned of multiple cougar sightings in the Rose Valley area.

Rose Valley Elementary School sent an email to parents advising:

"RVE has received multiple phone calls reporting a cougar sighting at the Rose Valley Pond.

"Students will remain inside for the remainder of the day, including a 'practice' inside recess.

"Please consider this when picking your child up at the school today."


Short-term rentals on radar

West Kelowna council will tackle the growing number of illegal short-term rentals in the city next spring.

Council made the decision following an impassioned plea by Ranch Road residents Richard and Debby Gill.

They said bylaw officers need more tools, while city bylaws around short-term rentals need more teeth to curb what they called the growing number of "party houses" in the city.

Richard Gill said a $500 ticket is not a deterrent, but just the cost of doing business for some absentee-owners who charge up to $2,000 a night for a home continually occupied by eight to 16 people intent on partying.

He said the city opened 62 complaint files in 2018, a believes most of those complaints centre around noise, parking and garbage.

He suggested raising fines to $1,000 immediately and lobbying the province to increase fines to as high as $10,000 for repeat offenders.

While council didn't jump on the suggestions, they did have some sympathy for those who live near party houses.

"This council need to discuss Airbnb's. Do we want them or do we not want them?" asked Coun. Rick de Jong.

"If not, what are we going to do about them, because they exist in an abundance."

Coun. Jason Zilkie, while believing a discussion around the table is needed, doesn't believe all short-term rentals are bad.

"I don't think eliminating it is realistic, but stopping party houses is needed," he said.

Council voted unanimously to endorse de Jong's motion asking staff to bring back a report on short-term rentals within the next six months.

Tax-funded lights left dark

West Kelowna local Mike Leigh is calling for an explanation as to why the taxpayer-funded lights at Johnson Bentley skate park have not been used.

The avid skateboarder says the lights have not been turned on since the park was built in 2016, and are especially necessary in the lead up to the winter season.

Leigh says he has been chasing answers for a long time to no avail, and simply wants the facility to be used in the way it was intended to be. 

"At other parks lights are used as they're meant to be with little to no problems. I've talked to the RCMP and their main concern was the number of noise complaints they get from boards impacting the concrete, and I guess maybe a criminal element being attracted to the park, but then my argument against that is that lights tend to turn that kind of activity away, not attract it.

"I just love my community and love my skatepark and want to see it used to its full potential."

West Kelowna parks and fleet operations manager Stacey Harding says the lights were originally turned on when the park first opened, but turned off after they attracted the wrong crowd.

"We thought the lights would detract criminal activity and had the same pre-conception, but rather than standing in a dark place they actually preferred to be under the lights. It attracted the homeless, people doing drugs and partying youth, and the good legitimate users didn't want to come around because of that.

"We weighed up the negative effects versus the very little positive effects and decided to turn the lights off. At the moment we don't see a need to change it based on user demand."

Arson trial delayed to 2020

The trial of a woman accused of setting fire to a pile of men's clothes, which then caused more than $100,000 in damage to a West Kelowna home, has been delayed.

Codie Dobson was arrested and charged with arson damaging a property in March 2018 after emergency crews responded to a house fire on Webber Road.

Crews arrived to find a burning pile of clothes in the backyard, and a portion of the house on fire.

An officer on scene told Castanet that witnesses had seen a woman lighting a fire in the backyard and fleeing the scene.

While Dobson was released on bail, she failed to appear in court in May 2018, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She was found and taken back into custody later that month, resulting in additional charges of resisting an officer and two counts of breaching bail conditions.

She was released from custody again later that summer, and in January of this year, she pleaded guilty to resisting an officer and was handed six months probation. The Crown then dropped the breach charges.

This week, Dobson was scheduled to face trial on the arson charge in Supreme Court in Kelowna, but the trial was delayed after Dobson changed her lawyer.

The case is still a long way from coming to a conclusion, with a pretrial conference set for next June, and a trial expected sometime after that.

Goats Peak officially opens

Miriam Halpenny

UPDATE: 3:20 p.m.

Goats Peak Regional Park is officially open to the public.

Regional Park Services officials held a press conference at the scenic West Kelowna peak to announce the opening, Wednesday.

Located in West Kelowna off Highway 97 and accessed by Seclusion Bay Road, the 52-hectare park will be developed to conserve ecosystems and promote passive recreation.

"It's a magical place to be," said Mayor Gord Milson. "When you hike the trails of this park, you have the most unbelievable views of the lake – there's all kinds of rare and valuable ecosystems that are being conserved."

In addition, visitors will be able to learn about Westbank First Nation history and early pioneer history through educational features that will be included.

"It's a really great opportunity to come together with Westbank First Nation along with Regional Parks in collaborating and getting this open for the public so we can have our culture shared," said WFN Coun. Tom Konek. 

The property was purchased by the Regional Dstrict of Central Okanagan in 2014 for $5 million. 

The park fills a significant gap in the Okanagan Trail 2000 vision for a continuous recreational trail between the Bennett Bridge and Peachland and protects a sizable portion of ecologically significant lands close to existing and potential residential areas.

ORIGINAL: 12:21 p.m.

Regional Parks Services along with other guests is presenting a significant announcement to the public on Goats Peak in West Kelowna.

Guests including West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom and Westbank First Nation Chief Roxanne Lindley will be speaking.

Castanet is covering the announcement live from Goats Peak, which will reveal plans to expand public access to the regional park. 

More coming

WFN going to the polls

Band members with Westbank First Nation head to the ballot box this week to elect a new chief and council.

Roxanne Lindley, elected the first female Chief of WFN, is seeking re-election.

In 2016, Lindley defeated then incumbent Chief Robert Louie by 34 votes. She is being opposed by current councillor Christopher Derickson.

The other three councillors are all running for re-election.

Brian Eli, first elected in 1978, is seeking a seventh council term, while Tom Konek and Fernanda Alexander are both looking for a second term.

The incumbents face a stiff challenge from eight challengers in a crowded 11-person field.

Challengers include, Andrea Alexander, Jordan Coble, Miguel De Guevara, Corinne Derickson, Lorrie Hogaboam, Bonnie McEwan, Chad Paul and Bobbi Tronson.

Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Senisyusten House of Learning. Only band members are eligible to vote.

Non-band members living on WFN lands are eligible to vote for the advisory council. Those elections will be held in October of next year.

West K has prime cannabis

The City of West Kelowna is the latest Okanagan community with a legally licenced non-medical cannabis store.

Prime Cannabis will be the first of five or six stores in the city to offer retail cannabis after recently receiving its license from the provincial government.

West Kelowna formally approved five retail applications in early July. They were then forwarded to the province for final approval.

The store will be located in what was the former Cattle Country Mall next to the Co-Op Gas Bar on Main Street.

The store won't be opening until November.

Four other successful applicants, one in downtown West Kelowna, one on Bylands Road and two on Industrial Road are still awaiting receipt of their license from the province.

A government-run cannabis store proposed for the Westbank Town Centre Mall must still go through a public hearing before if can be approved by council.

That application has received plenty of push-back from the community due to its close proximity to George Pringle Elementary.

Missing woman found

UPDATE: Tuesday, 1:50 p.m. 

After police reached out to the public for help finding Kasey-Anne Balaberda Monday, she has since been found.

ORIGINAL: Monday, 5:10 p.m.

RCMP are seeking the public's assistance to locate a missing West Kelowna woman.
Kasey-Anne Balaberda is believed to be in the West Kelowna area, but no one has heard from her in a few days, police say. 

Balaberda was reported missing on Sunday. Family are concerned for her health and well-being. 

Balaberda is described as: Caucasian, 46, with a slender build, five feet 10 inches tall, 132 pounds, with brown hair and green eyes.

Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact their local police, West Kelowna RCMP at 250-768-2880 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or www.crimestoppers.net.

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