Kelowna boat club owner speaks out against problem operators at launches | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna boat club owner speaks out against problem operators at launches

Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Okanagan Luxury Boat Club

Ryan Blonar doesn’t mind having to pay a fee to use City of Kelowna boat launches, but is shocked to find out how much it could be.

He’s the owner of Okanagan Luxury Boat Club and said he’s one of the largest users of the Water Street boat launch.

“I’m fully on board with a fee – as long as it’s reasonable – to weed out some of the rental companies that aren’t operating properly, who don’t have the right insurance or are operating out of a residential address instead of a commercial one,” Blonar told after reading its article about the city’s plan to bring in user fees for commercial operators this summer.

READ MORE: Tough new rules, fees coming for commercial users of Kelowna boat launches

City council supported a staff recommendation on Monday to bring in a fee structure to not only help pay for the maintenance and improvements for city boat launches but to also be consistent with the fact that commercial users of other city facilities have to get permits and pay fees, like food trucks in city parks.

Council was told that 25% of the people using boat launches are commercial operators, including boat clubs, and numerous complaints have been made about them.

Okanagan Luxury Boat Club has about 100 members, mostly local residents, who pay an annual membership fee (his website says that’s $2,000 for Seadoo only up to $13,000 a year) to have use of a boat throughout the boating season.

Blonar has a seven-to-one ratio of users per boat, meaning for every boat he operates, that takes seven off Okanagan Lake that would otherwise require scarce moorage sites.

“Companies like ours, we only bring the boats down when the clients are there,” Blonar said. “We send it out, we get them on board. Five minutes and we’re gone.”

A recreational boat user will often launch the boat, tie it up to the dock, drive away to find parking then walk back.

But it’s unethical rental outfits that are the real source of the complaints, Blonar said.

“From what I’ve seen – and I won’t mention any names – there are a couple problem rental companies,” Blonar said. “They tie four or five boats up on the water, just so they can get all their boats in there, and they clog up the launch so people can’t use it. These boats can be sitting in there for 30 minutes – up to an hour or more I’ve seen at some points – which renders half the launch unusable.”

There are also complaints about incorrect fuelling at the launches. Blonar’s boats are fully fuelled on dry land before being taken to the lake.

After hearing from a city councillor about the fees being in the works, he called City Hall and talked to a staff member there.

“She asked what would be reasonable,” Blonar said. “I told her I would be comfortable paying a couple of thousand a year, paying my fair share. She said that’s kind of unreasonable, what we’re looking at is going to be closer to $10,000.”

Blonar is planning to meet with Mayor Colin Basran next week to tell his side of the story.

JoAnne Adamson, the manager of the city’s property management department who presented the report to council, told that staff are still working out the fee structure. She could not confirm the conversation with Blonar, saying she didn't know who he would have talked with.

She’s hoping to have the fees ready to present to council in about a month.

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.

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