Light industrial park planned for long-shuttered OK Falls mill site

Vision for former mill site

Once a mill, then a planned cannabis production complex, now hopefully a light industrial park — the latest owners of the old Weyerhaeuser mill in Okanagan Falls have a vision that the site will be part of restarting the economic engine of the small community. 

Garry Peters and his company Avery Group purchased the 114-acre property this summer for a reported $6.8 million that netted former owner Sunniva Inc., a cannabis production company, $3.2M in cash proceeds. 

Sunniva had purchased it in 2018, before which it had languished empty since Weyerhaeuser packed up its mill operations in 2007, taking hundreds of jobs with it. It had been pegged for a large-scale cannabis facility promising employment opportunities, but litigation dogged progress. This summer, Sunniva sold the land. 

Now, Avery Group has a new plan for the lot, currently zoned for heavy industrial. 

"Garry came first to be familiar with that site while we were scouting for an entirely different business we are involved in," explained Avery Group director of marketing and strategy Monique Janower. 

Peters has family in Penticton, Janower said, and his mother is from the region. That's a big part of his drive to provide opportunities in the area, a "near and dear" location for him.

"Since [the purchase] we have been moving as  quickly as possible because we see the opportunity with the current state of Okanagan Falls, it's really on the precipice of a revitalization," Janower said. "There's this interwoven relationship between a small community and a large potential multi-business employer like a light industrial park." 

Redevelopment applications will be submitted this week, attempting to change the zoning from heavy to light industrial. 

"It's just greater flexibility for the types of businesses that can set up there," Janower said.

Avery Group representatives have plans to be in Okanagan Falls in the coming weeks for meetings with local stakeholders like the winery association and community association.

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