Gold Hill Winery has received a split decision on its two unpermitted dwellings, one building was approved and one denied to move forward to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The winery which is located between Oliver and Osoyoos has had an ongoing issue with two buildings on their properties operating as rentals with no permission to do so.
The first property at 3574 Fruitvale Way, has a two storey farm storage building that has been on it since 2009. The building meant for farm storage is now housing an upper two bedroom unit, a lower three bedroom unit, an exterior bathroom addition, and half of the first floor is storing farm equipment.
This building was before the Regional District of the Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) on September 7 because the owners required approval to send the application to the ALC to begin the process of formalizing the duplex through further rezonings.
The building was never built with a permit required for a dwelling, the building only ever had a building permit for farm storage. The property is also zoned Agricultural One and therefore is only allowed to have a single accessory dwelling on the property and not a duplex.
The communication between the property owners and the RDOS has been minimal throughout the process dating back to when there was a Stop Work Notice sent in January 2021. This lack of communication is one reason Rick Knodel, Director of Area C, Rural Oliver did not support the application.
Knodel said that “this is the second time around and no one has contacted me to try and explain their position on this. Normally I would support things going to the ALC for their decision for farm workers, but again I have no contact or no background to be able to support it.”
Jesci Parsons, an administrative operations assistant at Gold Hill, spoke on behalf of the owners at the meeting where she tried to make the case for the building.
Parsons noted that since the structure is already built, there is minimal impact on regional resources. She also explained that the winery needs to house their foreign workers which they rely on to farm effectively.
“We want to work together moving forward, we haven't always worked in the right direction, but we definitely are moving in that direction now,” she addressed the board.
Despite the original administrative recommendation to deny the application moving forward to the ALC, in a very close vote the board approved the application for this building to move onto the ALC.
Following this decision, the second non-compliant building owned by the same winery went the other way and in another close vote was denied a move onto the ALC.
This secondary building at 3548 Fruitvale far exceeds the maximum size allowed for an accessory dwelling. The size of the building is 227 sqm, and the maximum allowable is 125 sqm.
The property had long-term renters in it before the RDOS imposed a deadline on Jan. 19 to bring the building into compliance with the zoning bylaws or face remedial action.
One point that was brought up in the board’s discussion about the matter was that although the owners claim they want this to go forward to house temporary farm workers, there is no assurance the day after approval it wont go back to long-term rentals.
The ALC can put a condition on the property that it only be used by temporary farm workers, but there is no proper process for checking in or ensuring that this is actually being followed like what they can do with a temporary use permit to guarantee it is being used as intended.
Since the board did not approve sending the application to the ALC the building will have to be decommissioned or brought down to a size consistent with zoning.