Residents concerned about runoff from land clearing for winery project

Concern over water table

Residents of a neighbourhood at the south end of Vernon's Bella Vista hills fear potential water damage from the construction of a winery and vineyard above their homes.

Prior to recent colder weather, Fleming Road resident Gary Walthers says he witnessed water running in multiple small "rivers" off the property where hundreds of acres have been cleared for construction of a new winery by Frind Properties.

Frind already operates a winery in West Kelowna.

Walthers says he's not opposed to the project, but is concerned about the amount of water that will be put on the slope to irrigate the vines once they are planted.

"I'm a capitalist ... I think it's great. I'd rather have grapes than condos across the street," he said.

But Walthers said after rains earlier this month, neighbours got together and are planning to meet again about their concerns.

In that instance, water flowed down from the cleared land and flooded a couple of basements as well as pooled on Tronson Road, below the neighbourhood.

Walthers, who has lived on Fleming since the 1980s, says the neighbourhood has always had what he called "wet soil," and he suspects there is an undocumented underground spring in the area.

"I just started thinking about how much water will go on those grapes and whether the earth moving has disturbed the water table," he said.

He says after the rains, pumps began running 24 hours a day on the construction site, but stopped after sub-zero temperatures returned.

He spoke with the engineering department at the City of Vernon as well as Frind Properties and the contractor at the time.

City of Vernon spokesperson Christy Poirier says the city was made aware of stormwater and overland flow issues in the neighbourhood following precipitation events in January.

"City crews responded to these events, spoke with some local residents, removed water from the road with a vac truck and placed traffic signage where necessary," she said.

Poirier said the city is "working with the developer to ensure the work meets bylaw requirements, including addressing issues that may arise during the development process. The city has been communicating with neighbouring property owners to answer questions related to the stormwater issues. Where appropriate, they have been directed to the developer to have their questions or concerns addressed."

Calls to Frind Properties were directed to Frind Winery, where multiple calls have not been returned.

Poirier said "any issues impacting adjacent properties arising from the development activities are the responsibility of the developer."

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