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RV park developer agrees to build aquatic centre
The Town of Osoyoos could benefit from the building of a new multi-purpose aquatic centre and recreational facility for all residents to use if the developer of a proposed Recreational Vehicle (RV) park gets approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to proceed with the multi-million dollar development.
For more than a decade, B.C. developer Kevin Demers, the owner of Pemborough Estates, has proposed the development of a large RV Park on a 21-acre parcel of land located directly south of the new Petro Can gas station recently opened on the corner of Hwy. 3 and 45 Street on the town’s east bench.
On numerous occasions, the Demers’ proposal to build an RV Park in Osoyoos has been rejected by the ALC, who refuse to grant an exclusion to the agricultural land reserve (ALR) for him to develop the property.
However, this hasn’t deterred Demers and his company from making continuous amendments and changes to his plan on several occasions over the past decade.
On May 20, council discussed a revised agricultural land reserve (ALR) exclusion application for what has long been called the “Wish property” submitted by Kent MacPherson, who have acted as agents for Demers and Pemborough Estates over the past several years.
Demers and his company has proposed scrapping a large commercial development and replacing it with several amenities that would benefit local citizens and the town, said Jordan Hettinga, a senior real estate developer with Kent MacPherson, who made a presentation to members of Town of Osoyoos council on Monday.
On top of scaling down the RV Park from 180 sites to 109, the new proposal includes an additional residential subdivision at the sound end of the park, construction of several “park model homes” to add taxable property value to the town as well as an interior/exterior outdoor pool facility with guaranteed public access.
Hettinga confirmed the original proposal for a smaller pool of only 170 square metres is not significantly larger than existing commercial pools in town and his client is more than willing to increase the size and scope of the aquatic centre through further negotiations with the town.
The new proposal would also include a modern clubhouse, outdoor hot tub and gymnasium that would be available to all citizens and not just park users, he said.
“Pemborough Developments and the Town of Osoyoos recognize the additional benefits for both parties of including a significantly larger full-service aquatic centre to service RV patrons, other tourists and the general public,” said Alain Cunningham, the town’s director of development and planning. “These benefits would include increased revenue generating streams for Pemborough and an increased community benefit for the town to provide a high level of service for local residents, enhance tourist assets and attract new residents including employees of the new South Okanagan penitentiary and their families. “
The town and Demers have agreed in principle to pursue the development of a full-service aquatic centre and work out a deal relating to size and features of all centre components, a suitable business model for constructing and managing the centre and any other matters considered of mutual importance by both parties, said Cunningham.
Hettinga said the revamped proposal also includes building a new fire hall and adding 31 acres of land near Cawston that will be developed into farmland by Demers in exchange for the ALR exclusion to proceed with this development in Osoyoos.
Mayor Stu Wells made it very clear that the ALC will make the final decision on whether or not this proposal will ever proceed as they are the only authority in the province that can grant the ALR exclusion Demers has been seeking for more than a decade.
All Demers is asking from council is support in the form of a letter to the ALC informing the organization about council’s support for the revamped development, said Wells.
Considering Demers has made so many substantial and significant changes and is willing to build long-term amenities, including housing and an aquatic centre that would provide additional tax assessment to the town, he is now in favour of sending the letter of support requested by Demers, said Wells.
“This all comes back to the benefits for the town and there weren’t enough, in my opinion, with the previous proposal,” he said. “I’m satisfied with all the information now out there … that we can send that letter of support.”
Demers has gone out of his way to address the majority of concerns forwarded to him by council and members of the public during a recent public hearing, said Hettinga.
“We revised the proposal based on complaints and concerns,” he said.
Hettinga confirmed that Demers listened to council’s concerns about the small size of the proposed pool and would be willing to build a “proper lap pool” and full-service aquatic centre if the ALC eventually approves the ALR exclusion and allows the development to proceed.
The new proposal would include 109 RV pads, 29 park model homes and 28 single family residences as well as the new aquatic centre and fire hall, he said.
Based on 60 per cent occupancy of the RV pads, visitors at the park would generate $3.7 million annually in economic activity and $17,000 per day in spending during the peak tourist season, said Hettinga.
Coun. Mike Plante said Demers deserves a great deal of credit for making such significant changes to his original proposal and ensuring the new amenities would provide long-term benefit to Osoyoos citizens and taxpayers.
While some local residents oppose any project that would remove farm land from the ALR, the reality is the current owner hasn’t “done anything” with this land for more than a decade and there’s no indication any planting of crops will ever take place, said Plante.
Coun. C. J. Rhodes said Demers owns several other large RV Parks in Canada and the United States and they are all successful and the benefits of his revised proposal are too generous to ignore.
The hundreds of residents who would use the RV park and those who purchase homes at this new site would provide enormous economic benefits to the town, said Rhodes.
“They would eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores … and they would become a very vibrant part of our economy,” he said.
The ALC has done great work for decades in ensuring valuable farmland is maintained and preserved across B.C., said Rhodes.
However, the only issue he has ever had with the ALC is when it comes to denying smaller municipalities from being able to allow development within town boundaries, he said.
Municipalities are “struggling with development” and expanding their tax base and towns like Osoyoos aren’t in the position to turn down development proposals that would add so much to their communities, said Rhodes.
“I think this town needs development … and I think this is a proposal that would benefit tourism and the town,” he said. “I will continue to support this application as it goes along.”
Coun. Michael Ryan said while he would prefer the site to be used for agricultural purposes, he agrees the new proposal would be “of great benefit to the community” and he’s wary of letting valuable land like that sit vacant for another one or two decades.
Coun. Sue McKortoff said she couldn’t support the proposal, despite all of the changes and new amenities for the town, because she’s convinced the land in question would bestbe used as farmland now and in the future.
“I’m just not keen on seeing it covered in concrete,” she said. “I still believe this area could produce a wide variety of agricultural products.
“I’m voting (against) for myself and those I represent who I know are opposed.”
Following the lengthy discussion, council voted in favour of sending a letter of support for Demers asking for an ALR exclusion to the ALC and turning down a request to hold another public meeting in the near future.
If the ALC were ever to grant Demers his request for an ALR exclusion, the town would still have to approve a land occupancy agreement and issue development permits and the public would have significant input moving forward, said Cunningham.