Camille Martens came home from grocery shopping late Friday afternoon to find a pair of unexpected papers stapled to the doors of her highly successful Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club.
Martens discovered a Do Not Occupy order from the Regional District of North Okanagan on both the gym and dance studio on the East Vernon Road property she owns.
In January, the RDNO proceeded with actions to legalize the use of a gymnastics facility. A condition identified at that time was the RDNO receiving a report from a professional engineer outlining the necessary alterations to bring the buildings used for gymnastics purposes into compliance with the BC Building Code and the RDNO Building Bylaw No. 2670, 2015.
The RDNO said in a release Friday it has been in regular correspondence with the property owner as to these requirements and the expected timelines.
“Presently, the applicant has not submitted a formal report meeting these requirements,” said David Sewell, RDNO chief administrative officer.
Martens, in a release, said there was no warning of the Do Not Occupy order from RDNO.
“At no point did the building inspector attempt to contact me,” she said. “He did not enter either building to look for himself at any potential areas of concern, nor did he attempt to speak with the adults (who were coaching 16 rehearsing students) inside the gym at that time.
“We had no warning or call to fix anything specific and had shared all our information with them (as recently as June 6). To see ‘DO NOT OCCUPY’ signs there on a Friday at 4 p.m., was both shocking and upsetting. To do that just before the weekend when we have no way of doing anything seems sadly in line with how they have done everything else.”
Martens, a former Olympian and member of the Okanagan Sports Hall of Fame, is a single mom making, she said, a “low annual income.” She said she has been relying exclusively on the generous volunteer assistance of legal and engineering “The tremendously supportive parents from the club, the lawyer and engineers that are helping me, have made it possible to try to keep the club running smoothly amidst this,” she said. “For them, I am extremely grateful and indebted.”
She said as recently as June 6, she received an e-mail from her volunteer engineer stating that stairs leading to the storage area mezzanine do not meet regulation (the engineer said they are an eight-inch rise by an ll-inch run, and need to be seven-by-11).
“Most of the items can be rectified quite easily,” said the engineer, who left on a family trip to Europe shortly after his correspondence with Martens.
“The important fact is that structurally the building is safe.”
The RDNO said the club has forwarded preliminary correspondence which indicates that while the building is structurally compliant, there are a number of safety deficiencies and potential deficiencies of concern to users of the facility.
“Given the significant delays in addressing the conditions outlined by the board back in January, the identified safety deficiencies and for the protection of the public, the RDNO is moving forward with an escalated enforcement action,” said Sewell. “The RDNO remains committed to working with the property owner to address safety concerns in a timely manner and achieve regulatory compliance.”
The order did not sit well with Martens.
“After publicly assuring us they wanted to help us in every way possible, today RDNO issued a ‘Do Not Occupy’ order and stapled it to our gym,” she said, adding she assumes “the stairs and/or mezzanine is what concerns them right now, since I can’t see what else it could be.”
Adding to the club’s confusion, said Martens, is that RDNO signed off on a final inspection on the gym during classes in 2009, with the stairs and mezzanine as they are now. No one from the regional district, said Martens, has come to do a site visit or internal assessment of any kind since the incident erupted in the winter.
Martens said the club will do everything it can to do “whatever is required.”
“At this time we are not using our dance studio space, and won’t use the mezzanine so we can be sure it all meets everything they need,” she said. “We hope to be able to resume our training and preparation as soon as possible, even if we can’t use the eight-inch stairs.”
She also expressed sadness that the Do Not Occupy orders happened.
“My personal philosophy and passion has always been about giving back to my community, through children,” she said. ”My hope is that this never-ending nightmare will quickly be resolved.”
Martens club has produced numerous provincial champions and three club members have been named to Canada’s rhythmic gymnastics team.
The facility has a valid building permit for Farm Accessory use. The Do Not Occupy order provides for continued use consistent with that permit.