Vernon connecting historic North Okanagan trails

A missing link in an historic North Okanagan trail will be restored thanks to the recent acquisition of lands by local government.

The City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan will take four acres of land dedicated by a developer on Davison Road for park use, while 3.6 acres of trail right of way will connect the Turtle Mountain and Bella Vista sections of the Grey Canal Trail.

“The development of the Grey Canal Trail has been a passion project for many community members, local government representatives, and avid local trail users for nearly 20 years,” said Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming in a news release.

The land is one of the last privately owned portions along the 35-kilometre trail.

The city said it worked with developer Westco Properties to acquire the park land and trail land.

The Grey Canal was built by Lord and Lady Aberdeen. In 1905, they began an project to move water from lakes on highlands southeast of Vernon, across the Coldstream Valley, and along the benchlands that circle Vernon.

It was completed in 1914, at a cost of $423,000.

The Grey Canal played an important role in the subdivision of ranchlands and orchards.

“Earlier this year, we received a $110,000 grant from the Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture & Sport and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association to develop this section of the trail and install interpretive signage. Now that we have attained ownership, we can put the grant to use and begin trail development in the spring of 2022,” said Akbal Mund, chairman of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee.

Stay home, don’t travel, health authority implores

 Residents of the B.C. Interior are being urged not to travel to the Lower Mainland unless the trip is absolutely necessary.

An advisory against non-essential travel outside the region was issued by Interior Health as a way of trying to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

One-fifth of all COVID-19 cases in the Okanagan have been detected in just the past two weeks.

“Due to higher rates of COVID-19 being detected, Interior Health is concerned by the upward trend and frequency of new clusters in the region,” an IH release states.

“Interior Health urges against any non-essential travel. This means no unnecessary visits to the Lower Mainland or other jurisdictions with surging cases.”

Unless the upward trend in case counts can be modified, the Interior Health region could be subjected to the same kind of enhanced COVID-19 regulations now in effect in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.

“We need your support to avoid stringent measures in the Interior region,” the release says.

In the Lower Mainland, social gatherings in private homes are currently prohibited. No one beyond the immediate household is to attend another residence.

In the IH region, up to six people from outside a household are still permitted to visit a residence.

But the IH release stresses the importance of marking special occasions and holidays with only your family and up to the six others in your bubble, and keeping children’s bubbles as small as possible and limiting their interactions to only those students within their school cohort.

Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been 545 cases of COVID-19 in the Okanagan, 101 of which were detected between Oct. 23 and Nov. 5.

Case numbers have been soaring in the Lower Mainland for more than a month, with the vast majority of COVID-19 cases occurring there, disproportionate even to that region’s large share of the provincial population.

On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced 525 more COVID-19 cases were detected provincewide in the preceding 24 hours. Of the new cases, 27 were in the region served by Interior Health.

Cases in the IH region are still below what would normally be expected if COVID-19 infections were distributed equally across the B.C. population; that number would be about 75.

However, case counts in IH have been steadily trending upward in recent weeks, from an average of about five a day in September and 20 in mid-October.

Grocery store opens downtown

Penticton residents who live and work in the downtown core finally have a full service grocery store to call their own.

The former Royal Canadian Legion building at 502 Martin St. has been converted into Maharajah Grocerz. The store celebrated its grand opening two weeks ago.

The store is owned and operated by the brother and sister tandem of Simar and Baani Arora. Simar moved to Canada from India in early 2019. His sister had lived in Calgary for nine years before moving to Kelowna last year to join her brother. The siblings opened their first Maharajah Grocerz store in Kelowna last year.

There has been a need for a full service grocery store near the downtown core of Penticton for many years and things were going so well at their Kelowna store that they decided to expand to the Penticton market, said Simar.

The Vassilaki family owns the building and has been looking for a new tenant since the Legion relocated last year.

Maharajah Grocerz features a wide assortment of food products from their native India, as well as a wide assortment from other South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Malysia.

They will also be adding a single aisle dedicated to popular Canadian and North American food, a transition that will take place in the coming weeks and months, he said.

“Our original market was the South Asian population, but eventually we want to provide a full downtown market experience that will be popular with all Canadians,” he said.

Having a successful store in Kelowna has allowed the brother and sister to take their time in transitioning to opening a second location in Penticton, he said.

“From God’s grace, we’ve been doing well since we opened in Kelowna last year,” he said. “We found out quickly that a lot of people from Penticton were coming to our store in Kelowna because they were having a hard time finding international food in Penticton.

“A lot of those same people asked us to open another store here. We were going to originally open a store near Skaha Lake Road because much of Penticton’s East Indian community lives near there. But we met John (Vassilaki) and instead of moving into the former Last Call Liquor Store in the south end, he told us the downtown badly needed a grocery store.”

The Vassilaki family has been great to work with, he said.

“He and his family has helped us a lot,” he said. “He has really been a blessing to us. He helped us every step of the way.”

While the store does focus on food products from Asia, the goal is to provide a full service outlet for everyone, said Simar.

“We have a lot of Indian food, but we also have the basic necessities like bread, butter, milk, soft drinks and snacks. We also have 21 varieties of rice and every culture enjoys rice. You can buy a bag of 11 pounds of rice for $8.99. That’s a good deal.”

The store also offers a wide variety of samosas and ingredients to make butter chicken, which are extremely popular with Asian and Canadian customers, he said.

Response in the first two weeks has been solid, he said.

“It has been steady, good … we’re still trying to get the word out about the store,” he said. “A lot of people still don’t know about us, but we’re confident that will change.

“Right now, we’re just trying to meet our costs and not worrying about profits. As long as we meet the needs of the community, we’ll be happy until we get established. Fortunately, our Kelowna store is doing really well. As long as we can pay the rent and wages and utilities until people know about us, we’ll be happy.”

Maharajah is the Indian term for “King of Kings” and the goal for his family and staff is to provide quality food at a reasonable price, while ensuring the best level of customer service, he said.

There is plenty of competition in the grocery store business in Penticton, but Simar is confident his store can still thrive.

“There are a lot of elderly people who live downtown and they don’t want to go far to get the basics,” he said. “If they need bread, milk or cheese or vegetables, we have it all right here. If they want to buy rice or buttered chicken, that’s our specialty. We’re right in the heart of the downtown.”

The grocery store has items spread out over 4,000 square feet and there is another 6,000 square feet being used for storage, he said.

“We hope to be here for a long time,” he said.

Maharajah Grocerz is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Council approves rezoning for Summerland Motel

 SummerlandSummerland Motel owner John Lathey addresses council during a public hearing, Monday.

Summerland Council granted rezoning for the Summerland Motel in Trout Creek, now allowing for 27 guest rooms to be converted to long-term rental units.

Following a one-hour public hearing, Monday, council voted 5-2 in favour of the zoning amendment for the property located on Tait Street.

One existing building on the northern lot bordering Tait Street and Highway 97 will be retained as motel rooms, while two buildings on the southern lot will be turned into five one-bedroom apartments and 22 studio units.

The studio units would rent for between $900 and $950 monthly and the one-bedroom units for about $1,250 monthly. The units will be marketed for “adults only.”

Motel owner John Lathey said COVID-19 has crippled the tourism industry forcing him and his family to think outside the box.

Lathey said affordable units are more appealing to the overall aesthetics of Summerland compared with a boarded-up motel at the southern entrance to town.

“What we are planning to do is something the community needs,” Lathey said. “It would be a benefit to the community as a whole, while protecting our business and having no impact on the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Lathey said he’s been a good corporate citizen for the past 17 years, noting his $100,000 investment in the sewer system which directly benefited property values of Trout Creek residents.

About a dozen speakers addressed concerns during the public hearing, all in opposition. Trout Creek was described as a “unique neighbourhood” and residents feared the potential for an upswing in crime and lowering of property values.

Council did receive a handful of letters in support of the application.

“I have respect for the concerns in the area, but the whole housing diversity has been an issue for a long time,” Coun. Marty Van Alphen said, referencing the amenities in Trout Creek which includes an elementary school.

“We’re in dire straits for these types of accommodations. This is an opportunity to meet other people’s needs in our community. “

Van Alphen said he hopes consideration will be given to single parents with one child.

Addressing concerns of potential crime, Coun. Doug Holmes said he believes long-term rentals — requiring a lease to be signed and background check provided — will lessen the chances of crime. All residents will require a key to gain access to the property.

Holmes said he’d prefer if the buildings were located closer to services in the downtown core noting that if this was a new building, council would likely deny the application.

The application was recommended by staff.

Voting in favour were Mayor Toni Boot and Couns. Holmes, Van Alphen, Richard Barkwill and Doug Paton. Couns. Erin Trainer and Erin Carlson were opposed.

Documentary shows how we can control flooding

A documentary debuting on Oct. 21 will show how the Okanagan is using natural assets to control flooding and protect water quality.

“Utilizing natural assets proves to be the low-cost way to replace aging, depreciating infrastructure and to control flooding and water quality,” said Camille Saltman, managing director of entrepreneurship@UBCO, which is producing the program.

“Building major infrastructure projects and water treatment plans is unsustainable for our small communities up and down the Okanagan Valley. We need alternatives,” she said in a news release.

The program interviews community leaders like Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist; Tessa Terbasket, researcher for Okanagan Nation Alliance; Emanuel Machado, city administrator for Gibsons and chair of the Municipal Natural Asset Initiative; Anna Warwick Sears, CEO of Okanagan Basin Water Board; Herb Hammond, professional forester and forestry ecologist; Taryn Skalbania, co-founder of Peachland Watershed Protection Alliance; and researchers from the University of British Columbia.

“Guest participants include municipal leadership together with leading minds in land preservation, flooding and water quality. All are working on parallel initiatives. Our goal is to coalesce efforts and resources to create powerful outcomes for our region,” said David Saltman, Chair of the Okanagan Sustainability Council, which is a partner in the project.

Viewers will see how forests, streams and grasslands are being used to mitigate flooding and take a look at resiliency projects that incorporate Indigenous traditional knowledge as well as state-of-the-art technology.

The program will delve into work that is underway to predict flooding, protect vulnerable areas and make the region more climate resilient.

It will also look at watershed challenges that have been solved in Victoria and Vancouver but still need to be addressed in the Okanagan.

Viewers interested in the program can register for free at

Kelowna condo testing city parking policy

Sole KLO
There are only 28 resident parking stalls for the 42-suite, five-storey Sole KLO building, across from Okanagan College, and there are currently no stalls at all for visitors.

A shortage of resident and visitor parking at a Kelowna building has some residents complaining about one aspect of the city’s approach to development.

There are only 28 resident parking stalls for the 42-suite, five-storey Sole KLO building, across from Okanagan College, and there are currently no stalls at all for visitors.

“There is no place to park for deliveries, cleaners, contractors, friends and family,” Soul suite owner Sandra Gault says.

Parking woes are so acute, particularly with residents regularly being towed away from nearby lots, that a “tense” atmosphere has developed at the building, Gault says.

Municipal building rules allow for developers to provide fewer parking stalls than would normally be required if they instead contribute to city-managed parking reserve fund, used to pay for public parkades.

In the case of Sole KLO, the developer asked to provide about 15 less stalls than normal. Until last year, the so-called parking in-lieu charge was $7,500 per stall.

The city’s thinking in allowing fewer stalls than normal is that some suite purchasers might not have or want a car, and particularly so in the case of Sole KLO, given the building’s proximity to the amenity-rich South Pandosy neighbourhood, the college, and public transit, planner Adam Cseke said Friday.

A variety of city policies are aimed at reducing reliance on private automobiles and encouraging people to walk, cycle, or take transit, Cseke noted.

But such policies are sometimes unrealistic, Gault says, particularly if they create a parking problem of the kind she says exists at Sole KLO.

“The city may say that everyone should be riding bikes . . . but that is not going to happen,” she says. “‘Small living’ does not mean we are giving up our vehicles.”

Because parking in-lieu discussions are generally between the developer and planning staff, city council did not have to approve the parking situation at Sole KLO.

The city tells developers they should inform buyers about the parking situation at any newly-constructed building, Cseke says. As well, buyers have a responsibility to do their due diligence.

A marketing website for Sole KLO, where units ranging from stuidos to three-bedroom penthouses are now sold out, states: ‘Continuing the trend toward ‘Big Life. Small Footprint’ living, owners at Sole KLO can live carefree of car costs and maintenance.’

At Sole KLO, the parking woes are compounded by the lack of nearby on-street parking, Cseke acknowledges.

Efforts are underway to designate at least two stalls for visitor parking at Sole, Cseke said, and there is a small turnaround area that can be used for quick deliveries, he said.

Recently, the city reviewed how much it costs to build parkades and officials decided the $7,500 per stall parking-in-lieu charge being collected from developers was much too low. It has now been increased to $33,000.

“It’s much more cost-prohibitive now for developers to request parking-in-lieu than it was before the increase,” Cseke said.

B.C. taxpayers deserve better than Site C

Whoever forms the next provincial government will have to deal with all the problems associated with the dam at Site C on the Peace River.

The long history of questionable management by both BC Hydro and the civil servants in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum resources has culminated in a major political challenge.

Let’s take BC Hydro first.

For more than three decades, they have consistently over-estimated the future growth in demand for electricity. Moreover, they have used those estimates to justify investment in Site C. The existing capacity of electricity generation in BC is about 71 gigawatt hours — not counting the 5 gigawatt hours we are entitled to claim under the Columbia River treaty — and current demand is about 51 gigawatt hours. The surplus of about 20 gigawatt hours is sold on the spot market at below the cost of generation, mainly to the U.S; so, BC Hydro and its ratepayers are, in effect, subsidizing industry south of the border.

The extended period of determined over-estimation should have led to some firings, but these never came about.

Were that not enough, the same wizards at Hydro decided to hedge against future rises in interest rates, assuming that they would rise. To date, that strategy has cost more than $1 billion.

Guess who gets to cover this loss? You see that person every day in your mirror. Did anybody get canned for this blunder? Nope.

The board of BC Hydro is still packed mainly with faithful Liberals who firmly supported hydroelectric development even in the face of existing surplus production. While the NDP government changed the chairperson, the rest just carry on. Why?

Were the situation at BC Hydro itself not bad enough, the staff of the Ministry responsible for BC Hydro has also been filled with ardent believers in Site C. It is the biggest public works project in provincial history and is already several billion dollars over budget and likely to cost $10 billion more to finish.

This sad litany of human failings is still not the whole story; it appears that the geological underpinnings of the dam at Site C are now discovered to be less than ideal.

What the new government to be elected later this month needs to do is hire experts from outside the province – that is, not dependent for their livelihoods on contracts from BC Hydro – to undertake a through review of the entire project, including actions by BC Hydro and the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources. The experts should then advise whether the project should be closed down, at least until demand justifies its completion. They should also opine on what, if any, changes in personnel are required. Once their report is finished, the government must take the recommended actions, however unpalatable, in order to avoid a possible financial disaster to BC Hydro and BC ratepayers. Rating agencies consider BC Hydro’s debt as a liability of the Province.

How did we get here?

BC Hydro has for decades carefully avoided looking at alternative means of generating needed power. They argued, for example, that there is no data on thermal sites in B.C. (What about the 1,000 plus drilling sites in the northeast alone?)

Former BC Liberal Premiers Gordon Campbell and Christy Clark both loved Site C and the attention it brought, but they apparently never questioned the weak business case that underpinned the entire project. Given the significant cost of completing the project and the fact that, if completed now, it will likely lose money for at least 20 years, the ratepayers of B.C. might well ask why are we sending good money after bad.

Surely there are alternatives that could yield a greater return than needless increases in power generation.

David Bond is a retired bank economist living in Kelowna.

Trout Creek motel could become apartments

Two of the buildings that make up the Summerland Motel would be renovated and turned into 27 long-term rental apartments, according to a proposal that’s going to a public hearing in October.

The owner of the motel, which is actually located in the Trout Creek neighbourhood, intends to subdivide the site into two lots. One existing building on the northern lot bordering Tait Street and Highway 97 would be retained as motel rooms, while two buildings on the southern lot would be turned into five one-bedroom apartments and 22 studio units.

“Our experience has been that there is substantial demand for such units,” owner John Lathey wrote in a letter to Summerland council that also notes he has no intention of offering the apartments as vacation rentals.

“The reason we are looking for rezoning for our property is precisely not to go into short-term rentals,” wrote Lathey.

The plan requires a suite of regulatory approvals, including zoning and Official Community Plan amendments, which already have the support of district staff.

“Staff believe that the proposed OCP and zoning amendments will allow for the addition of a valuable stock of rental units to the district at no cost to the taxpayer and help contribute to our ultimate goal of accommodating an increased range of housing types,” planning technician Alex Costin told council.

Council later voted 5-0 – with Toni Boot on leave from her post as mayor and Coun. Doug Patan absent– to give tentative approval to the amendments and send the matter to a public hearing Oct. 26. Council also voted to expand from 30 to 100 metres the surrounding area in which neighbours will be notified about the proposal.

“That is a big change for that area,” said Coun. Erin Trainer, “so I would definitely like to hear what the neighbourhood has to say.”

Summerland council in 2019 approved a development variance permit to allow for a 24-unit motel nearby at the corner of Johnson Street and Highway 97, but nothing has come of that plan.

Summerland urged to take swing at indoor tennis

Indoor tennis
Kids swinging their raquets at the UBC Tennis Club in 2019. An effort is underway to build indoor tennis courts in Summerland.

Penticton’s loss could be Summerland’s gain.

As the City of Penticton continues dragging its heels on a request to make good on a 14-year-old promise to build new indoor tennis courts, the District of Summerland has an opportunity to corner the market, council was told at its meeting Monday.

“There’s no indoor tennis anywhere in the South Okanagan. There are facilities in Kelowna, there’s a facility in Vernon, there’s a facility in Kamloops, but there’s nothing (in Summerland) and to the south of us,” said Bill Everitt, past-president of Summerland’s Lakeshore Raquets Club

“For Summerland to host the only indoor tennis facility in the South Okanagan, we think, would be a big boost for our town, bringing tennis players from around the valley to stay and play with the economic benefits that follow.”

Everitt suggested indoor tennis courts could be incorporated in the proposed Summerland health and recreation centre, which is under discussion now. Including indoor tennis courts as part of a larger facility would reduce capital costs, he said, while making the community more attractive to families and retirees.

“We have, essentially, a two- or three-month playing time (outdoors) with shoulder seasons on the front and back end. Trying to develop any kinds of programs with kids, with schools, is very limited,” added Everitt.

He submitted to council letters of support from every tennis club in the region, along with information from Tennis Canada that claims it’s the third-most-popular sport among new Canadians.

Coun. Doug Holmes suggested tennis courts will be as important to future generations of Canadians as swimming pools and arenas were to previous generations.

“If you think of the sports that are available here, they’re not really the sports that are of interest to a diverse population,” said Holmes.

“If we’re talking about tackling systemic racism and institutional bias, we have to look at all the services and facilities that we operate, we have to look at ourselves, and is there a way to address that through what we provide our people.”

Summerland’s recreation manager, Lori Mullen, said consultants hired to design the new health and recreation centre have already heard the tennis presentation and are considering courts as part of a larger, multi-purpose facility.

As envisioned, the new health and creation centre would replace Summerland’s failing aquatic centre and the undersized gym at Summerland Secondary School, plus include space for a new primary clinic and other health professionals.

The partners in the project are School District 67, District of Summerland, Interior Health and South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice.

Funding has not yet been lined up for the centre, except for $10 million committed by SD 67 to replace the school gym.

Penticton city council in February voted to turn down a request for a new tennis bubble while a broader review of municipally owned assets is underway. The last such bubble was torn down in 2007 to make way for the South Okanagan Events Centre. City council of the day pledged to rebuild it elsewhere, but that never happened.

Owning their own restaurant has always been a dream for the Khatari family

 New businessThe new Penticton Indian Cuisine restaurant at 325 Main Street opened its doors earlier this month. It will be a family-run business as parents Dambar and Sita will be preparing the meals which will be served by their children Bashal (far left), Asmita and Rahul. The restaurant will feature authentic cuisine from India and Nepal.

It will very much be a family affair when customers sit down to dine at Penticton’s newest downtown restaurant.

The Khatari family, which includes parents Dambar and Sita and their children Bishal, Rahul, and Asmita, are the proud new owners of the Penticton Indian Cuisine Restaurant, located at 325 Main St. right next door to Mykonos.

The restaurant is in the same location as the former Annupurna Restaurant, which like Penticton Indian Cuisine, features a combination of food from India and Nepal, where the Khatari family originates from.

The family took over possession of the restaurant in late May and officially opened its doors to customers earlier this week on June 15.

Owning their own restaurant has been the dream of his parents and family for as long as he can remember, said Bishal.

“My parents have been cooking at another restaurant in town for a few years and at restaurants around the world,” he said. “They have been working in the restaurant industry for over two decades. They started in India and then moved to Cyprus. Then they moved to Japan and from there to Canada. They have always been working for someone else.

“They didn’t plan this, but an opportunity came up recently and they thought we should go for it and here we are today.”

The previous owners of Annapurna had their business on the market for some time and his parents were thrilled to have the opportunity to own and operate their own establishment for the first time, he said.

The restaurant will feature authentic Indian and Nepalese cuisine, including such standards at butter chicken, vegetarian and chicken samosas, pakoras, kormas, and a variety of mixed vegetable and chicken, lamb and beef plates.

“Our family is originally from Nepal, so we added several popular Nepalese dishes as well,” he said.

They include momos, sel roti, gundruk, bara, chatamari and more.

There are also several vegetarian dishes featuring tofu and soy bean items.

Being able to work with his parents and siblings in a family-owned business is something all members of the Khatari clan are very much looking forward to, said Bishal.

“Mom and Dad will be doing the cooking, but we will all be working together,” he said. “We’re a very tight-knit family and at all the other restaurants my parents worked at over the past few years, me and my brother and sister all worked at the front of house, so it’s nothing new for us.”

The Khataris invite all food lovers to come and sample their menu and promise they will enjoy a pleasant dining experience.

“We would like to ask people to give us a try,” he said. “We offer fresh food, great quality, good portions and reasonable prices.”

Like all other restaurant owners in B.C., Penticton Indian Cuisine has opened featuring plenty of space between tables to allow for social distancing and they also have strict cleaning procedures to protect customers, he said.

The restaurant is also offering disposable menus that are tossed out after each customer visit.

Because the restaurant has just opened and the Khatari family is trying to build a loyal clientele, they are offering both in-house service as well as takeout.

“Right now we’re relying on both,” he said. “Since most of the restaurants in town have just been allowed to open, people are slowly starting to come in, but most of our business this first week has been take out, We’re obviously going to rely on both in-house and takeout to get established.”

Penticton Indian Cuisine will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

For more information or to book a reservation, call the restaurant at 778-476-2683.