KELOWNA – A suspension bridge at Kelowna Mountain Resort has been heavily damaged, but the reason for it remains a mystery.
While many observers have presumed it was vandalism, the owners say that's not true. A post on the Kelowna Mountain Facebook page says it was damaged by wind.
“Kelowna Mountain has NOT been vandalized,” writes Nicola Consiglio on Nov. 24. “There was a terrible windstorm.”
On Tuesday, Nov. 7 a bizarre windstorm swept through the valley, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the West Kelowna Yacht Club and took down trees and branches around the city. Consiglio suggests the same storm also damaged the suspension bridge that leads from the development's Welcome Centre to the wine cave.
The Facebook post says maintenance has been on site but as of Nov. 26 the damage on the bridge is still evident. What has changed, however, is the entrance to the first of eight suspension bridges is boarded up and several no trespassing signs have been posted.
The bridge in question is clearly compromised with the netting cut along the entire span and one segment of boards broken and left hanging. It is unclear if Consiglio's claim of wind damage is based on observation, investigation or speculation. Calls to Mark Consiglio and Kelowna Mountain were not returned.
If the windstorm did cause the damage, it was oddly selective. All other bridges appear completely untouched. If it was wind, it may also raise questions about design and safety for wind to cause that much damage. The suspension bridges have never been inspected.
The damaged bridges also raise new questions about the future of the development, which has been controversial since owner Mark Consiglio bought the land and announced various iterations of a development plan including, at one time, residential housing units and even a ski hill. The controversy came to a head in 2012 when the Central Okanagan Regional District created an Official Community Plan for the south slopes, including Kelowna Mountain, that would significantly limit development there.
Kelowna Mountain has never submitted a development plan to the regional district.
Consiglio is currently engaged in a second lawsuit against the Central Okanagan Regional District for what Consiglio calls a “zeal to prevent all development on Kelowna Mountain.”
Consiglio says the District's actions have caused them to effectively waste the $50 million they spent on preparing the site for visitors. A multi-million dollar Welcome Centre and amphitheatre cannot be used for its original purpose again because it was never submitted for proper approvals.
Consiglio and his companies are also being sued by Tri City Capital, which claims he owes them more than $600,000 for defaulting on a mortgage.
The latest iteration of the development was to build an 11 million sq. ft. Wine Park, featuring a two-kilometer canal and promenade, surrounded by 12 greenhouses, each growing grapes for 12 different wine products.
He claimed at a media conference in December 2013 he found a way to proceed with the development with minimal interference from local government. On a handout, he said the development requires “no rezoning, area structure plan, development permit or OCP amendment.”
The District did not agree.
Then-chair Robert Hobson responded saying the board had yet to see a professional proposal and only heard about the proposal through media reports.
"The board has said on many occasions: Bring forward a proposal in a professional way that can be approved,” Hobson said in 2013. "So if he continues to say I don’t need any approvals and I can do whatever I like, then of course that is going to lead to a little grist in the mill.”
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