December 15, 2013 - 10:33 AM
KELOWNA - The $5 million Welcome Centre at Kelowna Mountain isn’t open to the public in part because the Central Okanagan Regional District suspects the developer withheld its true plans for ‘an improper purpose.’
The regional district filed its response this week to Kelowna Mountain owner Mark Consiglio’s attempt to get a judge to open the building. The regional district says it approved a building permit for an acceptable use but had no faith it would be used that way.
It imposed limitations “because of uncertainty as to the occupancy or use of the Welcome Centre.”
The regional district lays out a detailed history of the project and the developer’s changing plans but issued the permit because Kelowna Mountain declared the building would be used for agritourism and not more than 200-square-metres for retail for its agricultural output.
The regional district also notes “the apparent absence of an agricultural operation to justify the retail sales."
During construction, building inspectors found unapproved additions to construction, a patio area with gas-fitted barbecues, chairs and tables indicating they “had established a restaurant operation.”
The regional district said it imposed limitations on occupancy because a restaurant and other operations must meet different building and fire code requirements "and thus were not included for an improper purpose."
It’s the latest salvo in the contentious development. Consiglio has already spent $50 million on improvements including suspension bridges and plans to spend another $50 million. It claims to have had 25,000 visitors in 2013 but can't charge any money without approvals.
In a press conference Nov. 29, Consiglio made clear his view of the regional district's governance of the file and explained the court action.
"We have... asked the court to review the documents to see if the regional district has the right to issue someone a building permit, watch them spend $5 million building it and then say that they can't use the building," he said. "A judge will review the information and give us a decision and perhaps once and for all, we will clearly see whether Kelowna Mountain was following the rules, getting the permits we said needed to get and building everything as we should. I can hardly wait to be before the courts and let a higher authority render a decision that is fair."
In an affidavit supporting the court action, Consiglio says regional district directors “and particularly its chair, Robert Hobson, have made it clear through their actions that they oppose” the development.
Hobson maintains he’s never expressed an opinion on the development except to say it has to follow the same rules as every other developer.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013