Buffers will limit pot shops

The City of Penticton is proposing to limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in the city to about seven, not through a hard cap, but through a series of buffer zones limiting their placement to certain parts of the community.

The city released a proposed framework Tuesday for handling retail cannabis in advance of an open house on the subject later this month. The policy was developed with the results of a city-wide survey earlier this year.

“The city-wide survey provided great direction for the development of the framework,” said planning manager Blake Laven in a news release “After reviewing our proposed approach with the business community and other stakeholders and with recent information about the provincial licensing process, we have made some refinements and are now ready to more formally share the recommended approach with residents.”

The proposed plan will see cannabis retail storefronts banned from the 100 to 300 blocks of Main Street or Front Street, and limited to commercial zones C4-6.

Stores will not be allowed within 300 metres of a school, or 300 metres of a another cannabis store downtown or 750 metres in other areas of the city. City staff estimate these buffer zones will naturally limit the number of stores to seven.

Retail hours will be limited to 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the sale of accessory items cannot exceed 20 per cent of floorspace.

Storefronts will need to be transparent and have no roll shutters or security bars outside windows — regulations that are much different from those for liquor stores. Video surveillance will be mandated.

Laven said the discrepancy between rules for pot shops and liquor stores is simply because cannabis gives them a chance to create a new system, "if we went and created guidelines for liquor stores and pawn shops today, we'd probably create rules similar to these."

Smoking and vaping cannabis will be banned from all public spaces and will only be allowed on private property.

The open house on the cannabis framework (and three other topics) runs August 28, 4 to 7 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. Residents who cannot attend the event can also review materials and share their views by completing a feedback form on shapeyourcitypenticton.ca August 24 through to September 7.


Snowy Mtn. winding down

Crews have made steady progress fighting the Snowy Mountain wildfire as the number of resources battling the blaze is significantly reduced. 

On Tuesday there were 33 firefighters and two helicopters at the 13,400-hectare fire. That compares to 97 firefighters and 10 helicopters which were at the fire on Monday.

"Most of the firefighters have gone up towards to Merritt to fight new fires," BC Wildfire Service information officer Bob Cunneyworth said. 

While hundreds of properties in Keremeos and Cawston remain on evacuation alert, there are no longer any properties ordered out; the Lower Similkameen Indian Band rescinded its evacuation orders for Chopaka Road properties on Friday.

Cunneyworth said burn-off operations last week were successful and the fire is burning within its perimeters. 

He added, however, increased fire behaviour could still occur and crews "aren't quite there" in getting the fire fully contained.

Lots of work has been done to burn off fire fuels on the east and southeast flanks, and Cunneyworth said work is being done to establish a fireguard on the fire's northeast flank, near K Mountain.

The Snowy Mountain wildfire is one of two significant wildfires that have been burning in the Similkameen since a thunderstorm rolled through on July 17.

The other, the 2,400-hectare Placer Mountain wildfire, is now considered under control and, as of Sunday, was no longer identified a wildfire "of note," by the wildfire service.

Peachy film fest winners

Chelsea Powrie

The winners in the fourth annual ReelPeachFest have been announced. 

The short film festival featured films from one to three minutes long, submitted to one of two possible categories, Okanagan Experience and Liquid Libations. Thirty-six total films were entered and showed prior to musical headliners each night.

"The films made people laugh, smile, and exposed them to local experiences that they might never have known existed," said organizer Andrew Jakubeit.

In the Okanagan Experience category, the Fan Favourite award went to "Okanagan 101," produced by Nikki Love. It plays up Okanagan stereotypes while showcasing a genuine love of the area. 

First place went to "iPhone Narcissist," produced by Kate Twa and Ronan Reinart, which features a woman making her away around Penticton and area landmarks while glued to her phone, snapping selfies, poking fun at the Instagram lifestyle. 

Second and third place went to "Kettle Valley Railway Train Robbery" by William Joshua Rowbottom, and "Drums call to Dance" by Li Li. 

First place and Fan Favourite in the Liquid Libations category was "Meet Tony Holler," produced by Daphne Scromeda. It tells the story of Poplar Grove Winery and the wine they produce through personal recollections from owner Tony Holler. 

Second and third were "Cannery Going with the Flow" by James Manke and Kim Lawton and "The View" by Jennifer Molgat.

First first prize walked away with a getaway to the Penticton Lakeside Resort plus $1000, second prize received $500, third prize received $250 and fan favourites received a gift basket from Castanet valued at $300.


Nat'l park focus in the south

Early talks on the development of a national park in the South Okanagan have been focused on the southern areas around Mount Kobau and the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected area.

Parks Canada held a teleconference Tuesday to update the public on progress towards the contentious proposed park, which was announced was back in the works last year.

Kevin McNamee, director of parks establishment, says they have started to prepare a park concept to bring out to the public for consultation, as well as look at potential boundaries.

“Within the three parties that are doing this work, the focus has been on the southern component — which includes the South Okanagan Grasslands Protected areas,” he said. “Not the final boundary or suggested boundary, but our area of interest.”

McNamee was referring to a proposed map tabled by the provincial government in 2015. Area 3, in the Willowbrook/White Lake region, isn’t totally off the table but hasn’t gotten much attention.

“The province drew up a fairly large area that included places like Willowbrook, if we do something in the north it wouldn’t be in the size of that and certainly would not include any of the communities like Willowbrook.”

Parks Canada hopes to have a proposed boundary nailed down down spring/summer 2019, so formal negotiations can be complete by the start of 2020 if possible.

The idea of a national park has long polarized the South Okanagan, with signs in favour and opposed to the plan a fixture on private property throughout the region. Opponents of the park are worried about its impact on ranchers, who have grazed cattle in the area for well over 100 years.

McNamee says they are “considering” allowing ranchers access to park land, and stressed that no expropriation of property will be taking place.

With the exception of the fairly unique Rouge National Urban Park, McNamee said you would have to look as far back as the creation of the Bruce Peninsula National Park in the 80s for the last time a national park was created in such a populated area.

But even for most of the remote parks created over the past decade, McNamee said “you have a range of concerns that people raise with us. It's not uncommon that there are very strong voices of support, voices of opposition.”

He said consultation and talks with stakeholders, to be managed by project manager Sarah Boyle, will be ramping up through the end of this year.

“We’ve been a bit like a submarine, right now all you can see is the periscope,” he said. “But there is a lot of people working on the submarine, and we hope to come up with a plan soon.”

377 Winnipeg evicted

Colton Davies

UPDATE: 12:35 p.m.

Matt Taylor, who owns the small apartment building next to 377 Winnipeg Street and paid for the bailiff to carry out an eviction on the property, says issues at the property have escalated this year with a "significant amount of drug trafficking" and other illegal activity.

"We came to a situation where we felt, as a neighbour, direct involvement and bucking up some money was worth it."

Taylor says he’s been working with the landlord of 377, Raj Randhawa, who he says has committed to clean up the property.

But he says paying for the bailiff to evict the property shouldn’t have been his responsibility.

"With other landlords it might not have been necessary, probably wouldn't have been necessary. And no, it shouldn't be necessary," he says.

"But from our perspective, it's a good investment for the safety of the community, the safety of the neighbourhood and the safety of our building and our tenants."

Taylor praised cooperation from city staff and RCMP during the process.

He says it’s important for residents to support the city’s efforts to deal with vagrancy — such as a recent memo that “the party is over.”

"I think Penticton has a bit of a reputation for accepting this kind of lifestyle. And if we're going to change that, I think the community needs to show its city council and city staff that's the direction they want to go."

City staff told Castanet earlier this month its hoped the home will be boarded up once tenants are gone before the property is arrange to be cleaned up.

ORIGINAL: 10:30 a.m.

It’s moving day at 377 Winnipeg.

Bailiffs arrived Tuesday morning at the notorious problem property with moving trucks in tow to enforce an eviction order handed to the tenants of the home. Penticton RCMP and city bylaw are also on site.

It was, however, a neighbour of the home who appears to be responsible for the enforcement of the eviction order.

Matt Taylor, the owner of the apartment building next door, paid the $3,500 fee required to have the bailiff at the home. The bailiff was overheard saying, “it's done today,” to Taylor while the eviction was getting underway.

It was Taylor who brought the home before council on two occasions, complaining about suspicious activity at the home and people coming and going at all hours of the night.

The City of Penticton cut power to the home back in March, and the tenants had been relying on generators. One of the tenants told Castanet last month that she has nowhere else to live and an eviction will put her back on the streets. She claims she’s been unfairly vilified due to the actions of unwanted visitors to the home.

Castanet will update as more information becomes available.

—with files from Colton Davies

Burglar out on time served

A South Okanagan woman will be out of jail by the end of the week after pleading guilty to burglary and firearms charges.

Chelsey Thorstenson, 31, was sentenced to 11 months in prison Monday in Penticton court, time she has already almost completely served.

Thorstenson’s fingerprints were found at the scene of an interrupted break-and-enter at a rural property on Summerland's Garnet Valley Road on Dec. 21, 2017. A man stopping by his elderly mother’s home saw an unknown pickup truck parked in front of the house.

A man and woman exited the house and hopped into the truck, smashing into the home’s garage and witnesses truck, avoiding the son’s attempt to block them in.

The back door had been pried open and the home was completely tossed, while gas was stolen out of the locked fuel tanks.

She was arrested a few weeks later on Jan. 9 in Penticton at the Sahara Courtyard Inn. She was caught in a vehicle that contained a handgun — which bore her fingerprints — and a rifle.

In the vehicle with her was her boyfriend and prolific offender Waylon Faulhafer, and Jesse McKnight, who was shot and killed earlier this month north of Oliver.

Thorstenson pleaded guilty to one count of occupying a vehicle knowing a firearm is present and one count of break and enter.

Crown prosecutor Andrew Vandersluys argued for a two year total sentence, whereas defence lawyer James Pennington asked for time served. She already had 326 days worth of pre-sentence credit.

“I’ve had a large amount of time to reflect on the actions that have wound me up in here,” Thorstenson said from the Oliver prison via video conference. “I’m extremely embarrassed and 100 per cent remorseful for any pain or problems or for all the victims involved and careless behaviour.”

The court heard that Thorstenson has thrived behind bars, holding down two prison jobs, completed several employment skills courses and has come close to achieving her GED.

Judge Michelle Daneliuk lectured her on the violation the break-and-enter was for the elderly victim, who luckily was not home at the time.

She sentenced her to nine months prison for the break and enter and 60 days for the weapons charge. That leaves three days left on her sentence, which will be followed by 12 months of probation.

“You’ve done remarkable things in the last eight months and you should be very proud of yourself, it would be just an incredible waste for all that progress to see you return to the life that you were leading before you came into custody,” Daneliuk said after handing down the sentence, urging Thorstenson to surround herself with better people moving forward.

Workers out in the smoke

Chelsea Powrie

Outdoor workers in the Okanagan have a tough go of it when smoke in the air causes the air quality health index to rise. 

At the present time, the entire valley is facing a “very high risk” due to health impacts from wildfire smoke. For workers and others whose days must be spent outside, it can be hard on the lungs. 

"A lot of people are working outside right now, and when they do hard physical work and strenuous types of activity in the heat, they can actually be breathing in as much as 20 times the contaminants that they normally do just walking around," said WorkSafeBC manager for prevention Patrick Davie.

Construction worker Brodey said at his work site Monday that it had been a particularly difficult day. 

"Like this, today, is just horrible," he said, gesturing to a cloud of smoke on the horizon behind him. "You know you can really feel it, if you're working hard, you can feel it in your lungs, you get tired easily."

Davie said that while avoidance is the best way to deal with bad air quality, he knows that isn't always feasible. 

"It's not always easy to hide away from it but there are some things we can do," Davie said. "Try to have your job, if possible, scheduled outside of the hottest parts of the day, that's before 11 o'clock in the morning and 3 o'clock in the afternoon."

He added that modifications to the workplace, whether that's a construction site, outdoor patio or any other jobs outdoors, can help too. 

"If possible, can you put shade up? Is it possible to add fans?" he said. Another tip: Drink plenty of water, at least a glass an hour.

He also mentioned wearing light colours and breezy, loose clothing, if your job will allow. 

The Okanagan's smoky situation doesn't look like it will be clearing up until at least midweek. 

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