There are more than 80 athletes at the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics facility.

There are more than 80 athletes at the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics facility.

Gymnastics club fears closure by regional district

Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastic trying to have its East Vernon Road facility legalized

A gymnastics club insists it went through all of the required bureaucratic hurdles, but it could still be shut down.

The Regional District of North Okanagan board is considering a request Wednesday not to legalize the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics facility on East Vernon Road in the BX.

“It feels very wrong on every level that we are here when we have been totally open and transparent from start to finish and have continually done all that was asked,” said Camille Martens, club owner, in a document.

Currently, there are more than 80 athletes at the gym, including three members of the Canadian national team.

Martens purchased the property in 2009, and she insists she consulted with RDNO about possible uses. She also says that inspections were conducted by the regional district to ensure the existing building met the standards needed for a gym.

However, in spring 2015, RDNO received a health and safety complaint about the 3,000-square-foot facility.

“We received a very intimidating and threatening letter from RDNO stating we would be fined every day we operated our business,” said Martens, former Olympian.

Martens met with RDNO officials and she says the district couldn’t find the file containing  previous records and the final inspection.

Further inspections of the structure were done, and based on that, Martens applied to RDNO for a zoning amendment to sanction the building as a gym.

On Dec. 15, 2016, Martens was before the Electoral Advisory Committee which oversees planning matters in the electoral areas.

“We were informed that now they did have the original final inspection notice but they did not have copies of the fire inspection or electrical inspection we had provided them with,” she said.

RDNO officials defend their process.

“The building was constructed as a farm use and it’s being used for assembly, a gym,” said Bob Fleming, chairperson, adding it doesn’t meet commercial zoning.

“A building permit was issued for a use they are not using it for.”

Fleming also points out that three other structures have been constructed without permits.

The recommendation to the RDNO board to not legalize the gym facility comes from the five electoral area directors, and because they are responsible for planning, they will be the only ones to vote on the issue Wednesday.

“Unless something dramatic changes, I don’t expect the decision to change,” said Fleming.

Martens has suggested that the original health and safety complaint in 2015 came from a regional district employee.

Fleming doesn’t know if the potential role of an RDNO employee has been investigated.

“Before the meeting, I will try and find that out. But it’s somewhat irrelevant because it only would have brought to light the (land use) non-compliance. You have rules and you enforce them, or you don’t.”

Martens admits some sheds were constructed without permits and she is willing to address that situation.

She is urging gymnastics enthusiasts and residents to attend Wednesday’s meeting to observe the RDNO discussion.

“I believe what we have is worth fighting for and worth saving,” she said.