Posted on 06 June 2012 by Keith Lacey
Town of Osoyoos councillors are excited about two new water-based businesses that will be offered on Osoyoos Lake out of the town’s new marina, including a water taxi service and a boat rental company.
Council voted Monday to allow Jordy Hubert, owner of Osoyoos Marine, to use three out of the four commercial marina slips up for grabs, while the fourth slip will go to Randy Gallagher of Penticton, owner of Penticton Boat Rentals, who has proposed to operate a water taxi on Osoyoos Lake.
The last time a water taxi was operated on Osoyoos Lake was in the mid-1990s, said Mayor Stu Wells, and it was a profitable business that had a lot of customers.
“They used to bring people from Gyro Beach to Nk’Mip and take people under the bridge and to various places on the lake,” he said. “It was successful.”
Steve Shannon, a community planner for the Town of Osoyoos, said Gallagher’s proposal included a provision he would purchase a new watercraft if he was granted a marina slip and staff will make sure the new boat he purchases to run the water taxi business fits all of the criteria in the town’s Marine Moorage License Agreement.
“He is prepared to provide that service (water taxi) if he gets a slip … he doesn’t have the boat yet, but said he will buy one if he gets a slip,” said Shannon.
A proposal to have anyone renting a boat from Hubert’s boat rental business have to possess a pleasure craft operator’s license was discussed, but eventually turned down by members of council.
Several other private boat rental companies in town don’t have that kind of provision, so it would be unfair to have Hubert’s business singled out just because he’s running his boat rental business out of the town marina, said Mayor Stu Wells.
“It really does create the perception of unfairness if we’re the only ones doing it,” said Wells. “When you look at these boating safety certificates, it doesn’t actually have anything to do with the actual operation of a boat … it has to do with what I would call rules of the road, with things like avoiding sail boats and coming in and out of harbor.”
Coun. C.J. Rhodes agreed saying there are no other regulations in place for other boat rental businesses in town when it comes to having operators having to have a pleasure craft operator’s license, so it would be unfair to place restrictions on the boat rental business Hubert will operate out of the marina.
“I would have a problem putting something in front of a free enterprise system,” he said. “I don’t want to place any obstacles in front of free enterprise.”
Other private operators renting boats should not have any unfair advantage over Burton’s new business, said Wells.
“There is quite a lot of competition out there (boat rentals) and I think we have to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field,” said Wells.
Coun. Sue McKortoff said she’s hopeful the water taxi and boat rental businesses will be so successful, they will consider hiring a staff member to ensure the flow of traffic into and out of the marina.
Several members of council said they will review what has worked and what didn’t work in terms of operating the marina in 2012 and will make any necessary changes moving forward.
A resort community like Osoyoos needs small businesses like boat rentals and a water taxi and he’s glad council is doing its best to ensure these businesses can succeed, while ensuring visitors will be safe on the water, said Wells.
Shannon said once Gallagher purchases a watercraft to start his water taxi business, the boat will have to meet numerous regulations that will be detailed to him before he can start up the business.
Wells said considering so much of the tourist industry in town focuses around Osoyoos Lake, he’s very confident the two new businesses are going to be a great success once they’re up and running.
“We have landed two new businesses in town and that’s pretty exciting,” said Wells. “May they prosper and do well.”
It’s up to the boat rental companies to ensure all renters have appropriate accreditation when renting a boat as well as ensuring they complete the information session and sign all necessary waivers.
Staff didn’t know what kind of watercraft Gallagher will be looking to purchase to operate the new water taxi service.
Both businesses will be free to start their business ventures once they pay the $2,000 fee.
The new water taxi business won’t be open for several weeks until Gallagher buys a boat.