West Kelowna residents will pay more for water and sewer


Utility rates going up

The cost of some city-provided utilities are going up in West Kelowna.

Council gave final reading to bylaw amendments which will increase the cost of water, sewer, while at the same time lowering the cost residents pay for waste removal.

Residents who will receive water from the Rose Valley Water Treatment Plant will have their rates go up,retroactive to January 1, by $8.25 per quarter this year.

Those rates are expected to rise again in 2023 and 2024.

Powers Creek water rates are going up an estimated $8.75 per quarter for a single-family residence, “due to anticipated acquisition of short-term debt to fund aging components of the infrastructure and a review of costs required to operate the treatment plant.”

Sewer rates will be going up $2.78 per quarter for 2023 and 2024. Staff indicate this is the first increase in four years.

While water and sewer rates are going up, waste collection costs are on their way down.

Waste collection are being reduced $4.97 per quarter as lower contract costs have offset increases to tipping fees.

There’s virtually nothing to rent in the Central Okanagan


Vacancy rate almost zero

The tight housing market in the Central Okanagan is even more bleak than may have been thought.

The yearly rental figures released Friday by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation show the rental market in crisis.

The vacancy rate in the Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area which encompasses everything from Peachland through to Lake Country plunged to 0.6 per cent in 2021.

That’s the lowest rate since 2017 when the rental vacancy rate (0.2 per cent) was virtually non existent.

The rate has fluctuated since, hitting a high of 2.7 per cent in 2019. The rate in 2020 was 2.1 per cent.

Looking at room types, the vacancy rate is 0.1 per cent for bachelor suites, 0.7 per cent for one bedroom, 0.6 per cent for two bedrooms and 1.4 per cent for three bedroom units.

Townhouses, which are tracked separately within the CMHC report shows a zero per cent vacancy across the board.

Figures also show there were 7,185 private apartment units within the CMA, 280 more than in 2020.

The vacancy rate only takes into account apartments, and does not include secondary suites, basement suites, carriage houses, rooms or entire homes.

As the number of available units plummets, the cost for those lucky enough to find a vacancy is rising.

CMHC data, compiled in October of last year, pegged the rent for an average one bedroom unit at $1,191 with a two bedroom going for $1,475.

By comparison, rental ads on Castanet from October of last year show the average one bedroom listed at $1,471 while two bedroom units averaged out at $2,117 a month.

Developers have signed a contract of purchase for Kelowna Springs Golf course


Golf course sale pending

A staple within the Kelowna golfing network of courses may soon disappear.

After 32 years, Kelowna Spring Golf Course may be about to change hands.

A Vancouver developer recently signed a contract of purchase and sale for the property with the intention of eventually turning it into industrial land.

Changing the property from a golf course to industrial is possible because the land itself is not protected within the Agricultural Land Reserve.

The future land use designation for the 106.5 acre property is industrial as contained within the city’s Official Community Plan.

Commercial realtor Chad Biafore tells Castanet News a deal is pending, but indicates regardless of what transpires, immediate operation of the course will not be affected.

“They are going to operate this year for sure,” said Biafore.

“They could operate for a number of years.”

If the purchase goes through, Biafore confirms the developers intention is to turn it into industrial land.

However, that could take several years.

“Commercial real estate is every bit as hot as residential,” added Biafore,” and residential remains as hot as it has ever been.”

While the course itself is not within the ALR, Kelowna planning manager Ryan Smith says there is a lot of ALR land around it.

He says buffering and setbacks from that land would impact the future industrial development potential of the golf course.

Chad Biafore, VP of Land Sales at Colliers International – Kelowna, was the exclusive agent representing the sellers in this transaction.

Costco gas bar opens


The much anticipated opening of Costco’s new Kelowna gas bar has arrived.

The 24-pump gas station on Baron Road opened Friday morning.

Costco Kelowna general manager Omara Escobar sent out a brief video on the company’s Facebook page earlier this week saying the gas bar would open sometime this month, but no firm date was given.

Corporate communications officials suggested the gas bar wouldn’t open until later in the month, however, the open for business sign went up earlier this morning.

The price at the pumps, 134.9 for regular, 11 cents cheaper than other stations around the Central Okanagan.

The premium price is 144.9. The station is not selling diesel.

The opening has already caused some complaints about traffic in the area.

Construction on the nearby warehouse is continuing. It’s not expected to open until February or March of next year.

Kelowna taxpayers could face a tax increase north of 5 per cent in 2023


Big tax hit possible in 2023

A new city council will be asked to stickhandle around a number of potential landmines when they take up the task of determining a 2023 budget.

Each year’s budget includes a five-year financial plan which forecasts tax rates for upcoming years based on both operating and capital decisions made that year and in previous years.

Decisions made Thursday during day long deliberations on the 2022 budget pushed the projected increase in 2023 north of five per cent.

It’s expected taxpayers could face an increase of 5.21 per cent in 2023 and 4.76 in 2024.

Over the next four years, the combined increase is anticipated to fall just shy of 19 per cent.

A discussion Thursday to fund four RCMP positions not included within the 2022 budget prompted Mayor Colin Basran to suggest a compromise to fund two of the positions due to implications adding all four would have on the 2023 budget.

Things could change in the meantime.

Residents will go to the polls in October to elect a new council, whose makeup will dictate the fiscal direction the city will be taking.

And, while some decisions made Thursday will have an impact down the road, some looming major projects will have the biggest impact.

“You have to keep in mind next year’s budget includes borrowing for a new recreation facility, potentially the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history,” said Mayor Colin Basran.

Basran is referring to the estimated $133 million cost of replacing the Parkinson Recreation Centre.

That project was initially estimated to come in at $50 million, then jumped to $100 million a year ago.

Basran said the next council could decide to delay that, but stated delays would likely mean higher costs.

Kelowna’s 2022 budget will include a 3.64 percent increase for taxpayers


Boring, no surprise budget

Boring, devoid of any real surprises.

Call it what you will – after Kelowna city council breezed through more than 400 pages of budget requests, they fell on a provisional number close to what was presented at the beginning of deliberations Thursday.

Council started the day with a proposed tax increase of 3.49 per cent and, after a handful of changes, including the addition of three more staff positions, jumped marginally to 3.64 per cent.

That works out to an annual increase of $80 for the average city homeowner.

Coun. Gail Given she was less concerned about the the overall increase, and more concerned with what taxpayers would have to shell out in 2022.

She says she was buoyed by the fact taxpayers in Kelowna pay among the lowest taxes of any comparable size city in the province.

“You can be low in taxes people pay and not deliver any services, but that’s not the situation we’re in,” said Given.

“Repeatedly we hear from the community they appreciate, and are supportive of the services we deliver. I think the fact we have taken on additional responsibilities around the social side, we’ve maintained a low tax dollar rate is really quite an important part of the budget process.

“The other important part of the budget process for me is the budget binder isn’t full of surprises.”

She says the budget is a culmination of the work council and staff have done throughout the year on a number of capital and operational plans.

Any real surprises, Given says, would have been a cause for concern.

The biggest additions to what council was presented was the addition of three new staff positions, including two within the RCMP ranks. One position was for an additional general duty member while the other was for a disclosure co-ordinator need to process disclosure documents to meet court-imposed deadlines.

An accountant position in a department that has not had a staffing increase in 20 years was also approved.

“When you compare us to what other municipalities are going through and where we’ve ended up, we are in a really good place,” said Mayor Colin Basran.

“We are a growing community, but we have aging infrastructure. We have residents who expect more and, in conversations I have with residents it’s never do less, it’s always do more.

“I think we’ve found a good balance of increasing services, continue to invest in our infrastructure, continue to build a community where everyone wants to live, but do it in a fiscally responsible manner.”

Council will finalize the 2022 budget next spring.

Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step toward construction of Wilden Elementary school


Wilden school moves on

The Central Okanagan School District has taken the next step in the process toward construction of a new elementary school in the Wilden neighbourhood.

The district has submitted a subdivision application to the city for the property it recently purchased at 2025 Begbie Road.

A school in the rapidly growing Wilden neighbourhood has been on the school district’s radar for several years.

The school started to become reality earlier this year when the district purchased the property for $7.4 million.

The province provided $1.9 million toward the purchase with the district supplying the remaining $5.5 million.

“Students and families want and deserve schools near their homes, and this new site ensures land is in place to build a school that can serve families in Wilden for generations,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education at the time of the purchase.

Development and building permits must still be applied for and approved by city council before ground can be broken on the new school.

Cranes going up at job site

You can expect to see construction cranes reappearing on the Bernard Block construction site in downtown Kelowna next week.

Mission Group, which is building the multi-tower project on the former Bargain Centre site on Bernard, says it is working with Emry Formworks to develop a safety deployment plan for the careful assembly of two tower cranes for construction and completion of the Block office tower and Bertram condo tower.

The construction site was the scene of a crane collapse July 12 that killed five people. That crane was working on the nearly-completed Brooklyn tower fronting onto St. Paul Street.

In a news release Friday afternoon, Mission Group officials say the crane assembly will begin next Tuesday.

They will be assembled and serviced by Morwest Crane and Services Ltd., “a leader in the field and one of the most trusted crane services in Canada and the USA.

“The safety deployment plan includes comprehensive procedures for crane assembly and dismantling, including operator qualifications and training,” the news release stated.

“Mission Group has also planned timing for crane assembly to ensure minimal impact to the public.

“Supervisors and construction safety officers have been assigned by Mission Group, and will be onsite throughout the entire setup process.”

Kelowna cigar shop seeks a liquor license to sell high-end scotch and cognac


Liquor sales for cigar store?

The owner of a downtown Kelowna cigar store hopes to add high-end alcohol to his menu.

Cubanos, located in The District on Bernard, is seeking city council’s support for a liquor license to allow for liquor tastings on the premises.

The application would limit occupancy to six patrons while also maintaining existing hours in line with those of the mall.

In a report for council, staff note Cubanos offers an “experience and expertise in cigars, humidors, apparel and accessories.”

The current operation includes a coffee bar, but the applicant is looking to expand and introduce liquor tastings to allow the consumption of high-end scotch, cognac and other spirits,” staff note.

Cubanos owner Chico Dhuga says liquor sales will be limited only to select liquors to be paired with cigars.

City staff are in support of the application, saying it falls in line with licenses approved for other small businesses such as barbershops, salons, bookstores and galleries.

If council gives its support Tuesday night, the application would be forwarded to the province’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch for final approval.

West Kelowna rejects proposal for winery lookout tower


Winery tower crushed

A wine tasting building proposed for Goat’s Peak Winery will not become the tallest structure in West Kelowna.

Developers of Goat’s Peak Winery had originally proposed a 35 metre tall tasting facility in the form of a lighthouse.

Council deferred a decision on that design after giving it a lukewarm reception, prompting winery owner Darrel Monette to scrap the lighthouse in favour of a more slender, concrete structure.

At 35 metres, the building would easily be the tallest in the city, 10 metres taller than the bell tower at Mission Hill Winery.

Monette is seeking a non-farm use in order to construct the building on ALR land and, at the same time, is asking the city for a height variance. The maximum height allowed is 15 metres.

City planning manager Brent Magnan said the new iteration of the tasting room tower is a “significant redesign” over the lighthouse, but added height was still an issue.

If approved, he told council the city would have to spend about $250,000 on a new training program for the West Kelowna Fire Department.

Fire Chief Jason Brolund suggested the costs, including about $150,000 in training alone, could be spread over two years. Training and equipment would be required before the building opened to the public.

The expenditure was a non-starter for Coun. Rick de Jong, who didn’t see the need for a 35 metre “lookout tower.”

“I think the driving force behind that investment should be because we have a highrise tower coming in with residential development where those apartments are going to be paying taxes, and provide homes for people to live in,” he said.

“This proposal does none of that.”

De Jong says it’s no secret the new Official Community Plan will include highrises in city, but says that should be the driving force behind investing money for firefighter training, not something like this.

Coun. Doug Findlater called the money a “business subsidy,” and didn’t agree with spending it this way.

Speaking in favour of the tower, Coun. Jason Friesen argued the money has to be spent sometime and, whether it’s for this building or something else doesn’t matter.

He also applauded the winery for coming back with a “classy building.”

“We have to remember that part of tourism is about the experience so, yes, it’s a lookout tower, but it’s an experience,” said Friesen.

“We want to create experiences for our residents, experiences for our tourists, and we have to spend the money anyway.”

The tower idea was voted down 4-2, with only councillors Friesen and Jayson Zilkie voting in support.