By Kathy Michaels
Whether it’s a flagrant violation of guidelines or simply a wonderland for a lucky group of family and friends remains to be seen. But whatever is happening up at the private property on the Kelowna Mountain development is causing a stir and a lot of work for local government officials.
Earlier this summer, the Central Okanagan Regional District’s governance and services committee asked some of their staff to look into the legitimacy around a man-made lake and suspension bridge that had popped up on the property off Chute Lake Road, explained communication director Bruce Smith. The property, which is outside of City of Kelowna boundaries, is within the purview of the regional district and ultimately all activity on it should theoretically be given their stamp of approval. But that wasn’t the case.
In short order, the committee learned the lands was not covered by their Official Community Plan and as such they had no ability to stop a property owner from any land-altering activities. Their only recourse was to defer to provincial agencies, such as ones that oversee water quality and riparian land protection.
So they made those contacts and the committee then asked staff to go on a fact-finding mission.
“The regional district tried to contact the property owner and there was no response,” said Smith, adding they did eventually hear from the solicitor of the property owner, who told the district would it not be given access to the site.
“So in August we contracted an aerial photo service to fly over and photo document activities on the property,” he said. “The committee report showed a number of photos of construction and earth moving activities that have taken place.”
And the developments weren’t minor, Smith added. From their vantage point they were able to make out a suspension bridge, a ski mountain, a bike hill with four towers, a man-made lake, a half-pipe and a dam.
“Our planning staff forwarded information to the Ministry of Environment and they called the provincial Report All Poachers and Polluters line, advising of a water act violation,” said Smith. “Then we were contacted by the Conservation Office that they are doing an investigation of the allegations and we are awaiting a report back.”
Land owner Mark Consiglio said he doesn’t expect much from the report because by his estimate there are no rules being broken.
“Four years ago we built a skating pond and a little family ski hill for our kids, family and friends,” he said, adding that those infrastructure upgrades, and the Olympic half-pipe on site are not for commercial use.
“Back then we invited the mayor and half of council up — they’ve all seen it. Everything we have done was done was done awhile ago and without the requirement of any permits.”
Consiglio stressed that the ammenitites up there are for his friends and family, and due process is being respected. “We are taking a really pragmatic approach,” he said. “It’s private property, we own it and we will stand firmly on that.”
As for whether or not Consiglio found a loophole that frees him from the application process remains to be seen, but this kerfuffle may serve as a cautionary tale to the regional district.
“We have development permit areas and development permit guidelines that are attached to protect environment, and wildfire guidelines to guide future developments,” said Smith. “But in the absense of that, we have no development guidelines for anything there.”
The area will soon have an official community plan, and once that’s done Smith isn’t sure how the Consiglio developments will be figured into the equation.
“I am not sure if we would work with what’s been done, or whether we could go back and seek mitigation,” he said.
250-575-0761Kelowna Mountain developer causes kerfuffle with property improvements
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