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Proposed Okanagan Gondola project not supported by RDNO staff

Developer needs regional district’s approval to build a gondola climbing 1,600 feet above Kalamalka Lake
A design concept of the Okanagan Gondola, proposed by developers Ridge North America who are seeking an amendment to the RDNO’s Official Community Plan. The project will be discussed at an RDNO Electoral Area Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Ridge North America photo)

A plan to build a gondola overlooking Kalamalka Lake has hit a snag.

Staff at the Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) are not in favour of supporting the proposed Okanagan Gondola project, which would take visitors up 1,600 feet from a Bailey Road site south of Vernon near the Okanagan Rail Trail to the summit.

The ambitious multi-million dollar project would feature zip lines, restaurants, retail outlets, an outdoor light show area, wedding and event venues, tree forts, a playground, plaza, amphitheatre, trails and more.

“The planning department recommends that the application not be approved as it is not supported by Official Community Plan (OCP) policies,” reads a staff report to RDNO directors, who will have the final say on the application to amend the OCP.

The OCP policies encourage development on lands designated commercial in the OCP, and discourage commercial development and signage along the Highway 97 corridor in the southern gateway area, according to the report.

The property that would be developed is just over 116 hectares on the west side of Highway 97. Two portions of the property totalling nearly 20 hectares are within the agricultural land reserve (ALR).

The OCP for electoral areas B and C identifies the site as having moderate to very high environmental conservation values, according to the report.

The RDNO planning department cited a number of reasons for choosing not to recommend approving the project.

One reason is the use of ALR land for non-farm use. Another is that the OCP Gateway policy discourages direct access onto and off of Highway 97. Although staff acknowledged that the application doesn’t propose direct access to the highway, most traffic travelling to and from the site would be using the Bailey Road and Highway 97 intersection, which does not have traffic control signals.

“Support for the proposed development may set a perceived precedent leading to additional applications for commercial development within rural designated areas along the Highway 97 corridor,” the report states.

“In the final analysis, the planning department is of the opinion that the OCP Gateway Policies to discourage commercial development south of the City of Vernon are key to maintaining the rural character of the area.”

The applicant is seeking to revise the OCP land use designation of the non-ALR portion of the property from large holding to commercial and recreation commercial.

The matter will be discussed at the Electoral Area Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, March 3. The next board meeting is March 16.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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