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Sparkling Hill preparing to dazzle

Vernon mayor Wayne Lippert and Sparkling Hill officials Jim Radford, Timothy Spiegel and Hans Peter Mayr toast to the largest building permit in Vernon’s history at the resort site overlooking Okanagan Lake Tuesday. - tyler olsen/morning star
Vernon mayor Wayne Lippert and Sparkling Hill officials Jim Radford, Timothy Spiegel and Hans Peter Mayr toast to the largest building permit in Vernon’s history at the resort site overlooking Okanagan Lake Tuesday.
— image credit: tyler olsen/morning star

Vernon’s mayor doesn’t usually issue building permits himself, but he’s made an exception for the largest one in history.

Wayne Lippert handed over a $55 million building permit to the proponents of the $100 million Sparkling Hill Resort project during a special ceremony Tuesday.

“It shows the economy is strong and the company believes in us,” said Lippert.

The permit for Sparkling Hill (formerly known as Kristall Resort) far outpaces other large permits such as $21 million for the B.C. Transmission Corporation building and $20 million for the Strand resort.

The $55 million signifies the actual value of the base building between Predator Ridge and Okanagan Lake, For the permit, the city received $350,000.

“We usually budget $1 million in building permits for a year so to get $350,000 is huge,” said Leon Gous, the city’s chief administrative officer.

The money generated from the permit gave city council the ability to reduce the impact of a tax hike this year. A one per cent tax increase equates to about $150,000.

If the building permit, development cost charges and securities are combined, Sparkling Hill cut a cheque of $1.6 million to the city.

On top of this, $8.4 million has been invested in road, water and sewer infrastructure.

Jim Radford, the resort’s chief operating officer, admits considerable money has been pumped out, but he believes it makes financial sense for a luxury hotel and spa here.

“We’ve done the business plan and we believe the return is here,” he said.

It’s anticipated that Sparkling Hill — with 150 luxurious rooms on 174 acres — will open in late 2009.

“It will be something very special,” said Hans Peter Mayr, president.

“We are looking to the Canadian market and the market across the border. But I am sure we can also bring the European market and we are looking to the Asian market.”

Mayr has experience in planning and managing hotels and spas, and he helped open three resorts in Austria.

Plans for the Vernon development were first announced in 2003 and some work began in 2004.

But Mayr says delays occurred because of the scope of the project.

With the building permit now in place, activity will accelerate.

“It’s great to see this project get off the ground and carry forward. It’s very exciting for

“We really see it bringing value to us.”

The project has been known as Kristall for a number of years, but it recently decided to change the name to Sparkling Hill because of its natural setting.

“It’s because of the wonderful lake behind us and the reflection from it,” said Mayr of the name.

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