Former Okanagan North Growers Cooperative packinghouse in Oyama will see the outside parking lot turned into a boat storage facility. Image Credit: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Oyama boat storage gets support

Old packinghouse at 15660 Oyama Rd. will be used as an outdoor storage area

Lake Country council has done everything short of violating the B.C. Fire Code regulations to assist the start-up of a boat storage facility in Oyama.

Project proponent Rob Luchka was seeking a temporary use permit to use the parking lot of the old packinghouse at 15660 Oyama Rd. as an outdoor storage location for marine recreational vehicles.

City staff recommended that Luchka be granted temporary use permit on an 18-month trial basis, allowing for up to maximum of 60 watercraft on the 36,000-square-foot paved parking area, and that two private fire hydrants on site be repaired and serviced to B.C. Fire Code.

Luchka appeared before council on Tuesday to ask for amendments to all those stipulations, which were granted as council was unanimous in wanting to not impede the development being sidetracked by unnecessary initial costs.

The temporary use permit was extended from 1.5 to three years, while the maximum allowed storage capacity was lifted.

However, the fire hydrants, one which is operational and one that is not, could cost up to $5,000 each to bring up to B.C. Fire Code regulations, were a stumbling block because of liability issues if council ignored the issue.

Lake Country deputy fire chief Brent Penner said existing fire hydrants must be brought up to code under provincial regulations if the abandoned property is put back in use.

Luchka said that added cost would be detrimental to his business start-up, noting there are three other public hydrants surrounding the property that could be utilized to fight a fire.

After much debate, council opted to approve the permit contingent on Luchka seeking a service contract to remediate repairs to the two fire hydrants.

The revision cleared the municipality of liability issues while giving Luchka added time to address the fire hydrant repairs.

Luchka, an Oyama resident since 1994, has a long-term vision of creating a yacht club with a target of 250 members, the initial stage begin to develop the outdoor storage and boat launch valet service.

He said beyond the convenience to boaters, he said his service will help alleviate the parking and traffic disruption caused by boat trailers and vehicles parked around the boat launch site, which provides access both to Wood Lake and Kalamalka Lake along the Oyama isthmus.

He said landscaping along with lighting on a controlled timer will add to the aesthetics of the property and minimize the disruption for his neighbours.

He would like to eventually see the packinghouse building itself revitalized to complement the yacht club concept, but his focus right now is outdoor use of the parking lot.

Luchka has spent considerable effort to involve local residents in what his plans were, and several neighbours appeared at council to speak on his behalf, calling the packinghouse site an eyesore of “tumbleweeds, dust and dirt.”

Luchka’s proposal was called an ideal way to reuse, repurpose and recycle the existing site, which might otherwise see the packinghouse torn down and redeveloped that “might raise other issues.”

Given the concerns expressed about fire hydrants, Coun. Blair Ireland raised the issue of how the Okanagan Centre packinghouse only has one fire hydrant on site, presenting a greater fire safety hazard than the Oyama location.

“There seems to be a disparity there between what is required for the two locations,” Ireland said.

Alberto De Feo, chief administration officer for Lake Country, noted a similar facility fire shortly after the municipality was incorporated led to litigation fallout.

“We have to be careful to the exposure of risk we would take on by contravening the B.C. Fire Code,” De Feo said.

He noted that public facilities adopted at incorporation weren’t the legal responsibility of the municipality for fire code regulations, but any changes to those properties that violate B.C. Fire Code regulations moving forward would leave the municipality vulnerable to liability.