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Okanagan Falls seeks rural dividend funding to develop town centre strategy

The flea market is gone, and the regional district is hoping to coordinate efforts with the new property owner on town centre enhancements as the community moves to secure funding for its town centre initiative.
October 06, 2016 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - Continuing efforts to bring new life and character to Okanagan Falls business area could get a boost through rural dividend funding.

An application for the fund was supported by the regional district board at today’s board meeting, Oct. 6.

Area “D” rural services manager Shona Schleppe’s report to the regional district board requested support for an application for rural dividend funding for the Okanagan Falls Town Centre revitalization plan.

The strategy to strengthen Okanagan Falls as a viable community and make it more attractive to business, residents and industry is entering its third phase, which involves creating a community plan amendment for the town centre area.

The funds would be used to create an implementation plan that would include such things as traffic impact and servicing assessments.

In her report to the board, Area “D” rural services manager Shona Schleppe says the regional district hopes to reverse the economic fortunes of Okanagan Falls through a well planned, positive downtown area, using both public and private investment to create a "quality urban design that can provide a distinctive place to work, invest, shop and play.”

She says the board would be applying for a single applicant grant of up to $100,000 one of three categories of grants available through the fund.

Schleppe says the community is hoping to work with the new owner of the former flea market property to build a plan with some planning principles for the centre of town.

“It’s a significant piece of property,” she said, noting the property is currently zoned commercial residential. The new owner hasn’t indicated what he’d like to see on the property, Schleppe said.

Area “D” Director Tom Siddon told the board the purpose of the fund, which is operated by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, is to help communities hard hit by the pine beetle epidemic.

“I would argue we’ve been trying to get out from under that since the Weyerhaeuser mill closed 10 years ago,” he said.

He said a letter was received yesterday from consultants for the owners of the flea market property objecting to the application, saying it flew in the face of their client’s interests in developing their town centre property in the way they wished.

“The fact is, we have zoning in the town centre and very recently we adopted amendments to the highway commercial zone,” Siddon said, adding if higher levels of government were offering the funds, the regional district should be applying.

He said constructive meetings between the property owners and regional district consultants had taken place yesterday that resulted in “a more relaxed attitude about our intention to accommodate other points of view."

The funds would require a contribution of 20 per cent of the total project cost from the applicant, which in this case would be regional district Area “D.” Local funding contributions would come from the Area “D” economic development fund.

The board endorsed the application, which must be submitted by Oct. 30.

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