Top stories of 2020: Sweeping O'Keefe Range lands up for sale

No. 3: O'Keefe Range

Castanet is counting down its top 10 news stories of the year.

We'll count down 2020's biggest Vernon stories starting Dec. 22, winding up with the top story of the year on Dec. 31, and our newsmaker of the year on New Year's Day.

Today's story, No. 3: The O'Keefe Range.

The listing for sale one of the largest and oldest pieces of registered land in Vernon has huge ramifications on future development of the city.

The 2,310 acres overlooking the city went on sale in August.

The O'Keefe Range is owned by the descendants of the O'Keefe family that settled in the area more than 150 years ago.

Valued at $28.8 million, the sweeping range that sits atop the Bella Vista hills, Turtle Mountain and Swan Lake is the last remaining portion of land the family owns that is associated with the original O'Keefe Ranch.

The ranch itself, now operated as a historical attraction, is not included in the listing, however, and is its own separate entity.

The property was originally used as grazing land for the ranch's cattle.

Its development would dramatically alter the hillside vistas surrounding the city.

Three hundred acres of the property is within the official community plan as the East Bella Vista neighbourhood, which would likely entail the construction of single-family to multi-family homes and some neighbourhood commercial uses.

An additional 200 acres is within the agricultural land reserve.

"There are also 20 land titles, which gives you some flexibility. Under existing zoning, you could subdivide into 30-acre lots," says Mark Lester, a realtor for Colliers International.

"But I think the real potential is for someone who is visionary; who sees the potential of having such a large tract of land within the city limits. It's unusual to have such a large property within any city limits. I think someone who is visionary and sees the long-term potential is going to do well with it."

Those remaining titles have yet to be sold, but the North Okanagan Naturalists Club wants to keep the land from being developed, calling it a "provincial priority for conservation" and a "rare grassland area that must be saved."

More Vernon News