Would you like to subscribe to our newsletters?

Sign up here for our Newsletter!

Lake Country making life difficult and expensive for two of its wineries

This tent is the subject of a years-long battle between Ex Nihilo Vineyards and the District of Lake Country.
This tent is the subject of a years-long battle between Ex Nihilo Vineyards and the District of Lake Country.
Image Credit: Submitted/District of Lake Country

There are plenty of wineries in Lake Country but at least two are engaged in long-drawn out conflicts over building permits.

“I’m pounding my head up against the wall,” Jeff Harder, co-owner of Ex Nihilo Vineyards, told “It’s been very difficult. I’m doing my best to try to find a resolve."

About seven years ago, he put up what he calls a tent but it's really a canopy over a patio. He has two such structures now, one 20 feet by 20 feet and the other 30 feet by 30 feet. They are temporary tents and used mainly for shade since people don’t sit outside in the cold, rain or wind.

Two years ago, District of Lake Country staff “became aware of a building being erected without proper permits in place,” says a report going to district council tonight, Sept. 6.

Since then there have been a number of letters back and forth and building permits applied for.

At issue is Lake Country is insisting on engineering documents the manufacturer won’t supply, Harder explained.

He’s tried to get domestic engineering firms to confirm that the tents are sound. He’s had an engineer give a stamp of approval for the way the tent is erected.

“I’ve been spending thousand of dollars to get third party engineering companies to stamp somebody else work from oversees,” Harder said.

He’s also checked with companies all over B.C. that sell and rent tents who have told him no other municipality requires a building permit for such structures.

Now, staff are asking Lake Country council to put a Notice of Title on the property to protect it from any liability and notify future owners that a “building permit to place the tent buildings is not issued and may pose a risk to owner and members of the public,” the report said.

Staff argued a building permit is required for tents and they are required to enforce those rules.

“In the grand scheme of things, given what I’ve paid engineers for this, the penalty is nothing,” Harder said. “I’m disappointed. I would like the district to work with me more to come to a resolve and a solution and work with me. It continues to waste a lot of time and energy. I’ve spent a lot of money here. There’s no one who wants it safe more than I do.”

Harder hopes to speak to council tonight to give his side of the story.

On the same agenda is another effort by staff to put a Notice on Title on a winery, this time for what it calls a “pizza hut” at Blind Tiger Vineyards that it says was built in 2019 without a permit.

“It’s an outdoor kitchen,” Lorna Mugwe, manager of Marno’s Wood Fired Pizza, told “It’s a wood fire stove, built-in. It’s just a kitchen.”

It’s attached to the building that houses the winery and has a tin roof over top.

The owners are out of the country and Mugwe has only worked there for a couple of months so doesn’t know all the history behind the building permit issues.

The owners have hired engineers to try to meet Lake Country’s demands and Mugwe expects them to have a representative to speak to council tonight.

“Outstanding items include: Evidence that the spatial separation calculations work to prevent the spread of fire from one structure to another and evidence that the septic system is adequate for the proposed additional loads,” said an email sent to the owner by the district in 2019.

Similar to the tents at Ex Nihilo, the pizza oven is only used in the summer. It is now closed for the season.

As with the Ex Nihilo notice on title, staff want to protect the District of Lake Country from any future liability.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above.