NORTH OKANAGAN - The regional district appears to be doing a 180 when it comes to the future of a North Okanagan gymnastics centre that just last week feared closure.
In December, Camille Martens, owner of the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics club on East Vernon Road, learned she may have to close the business because it did not conform to zoning rules.
But Bob Fleming, chair of the Regional District of the North Okanagan board of directors, says they are now planning to support the zoning amendment Martens has been asking for.
“We are taking a different tack,” Fleming says.
A staff recommendation indicated the gym is four times the size permitted under a home occupation use. Because the property is located in the agricultural land reserve, staff also had concerns about a precedent being set which could lead to a reduction in farm use if the amendment was granted.
Following significant public pressure to keep the gym open, Fleming met with staff and other directors, and says they will be supporting an alternate recommendation at tomorrow’s board meeting, Jan. 4.
While the actual vote has yet to happen, Fleming is confident the electoral directors will approve the zoning amendment, with a couple of conditions. The first is that the gym be inspected to ensure it meets the building code, and the second is that an application be sent to the Agricultural Land Commission for non-farm use activity.
Fleming says several factors are behind the change in direction.
“The information forwarded by members of the gymnastics community influenced it,” Fleming says. “And information related to the file… both information that should have been supplied and wasn’t, and upon reflecting on the combination of circumstances. (This) thing deserves support.”
He says there was a “gap” in the district’s records around the time Martens purchased the property in 2009.
“Some information there was not complete and because it was not complete, it leaves a gap,” Fleming says. “The proponent should not be made to suffer because of that.”
He says information that should have been recorded during building inspections at the time was simply not there.
Despite staff concerns about the amendment setting a precedent for other agricultural lands, Fleming says this is a unique case and not one that is likely to be replicated.
“It’s a specific use and it’s worth supporting,” he says.
Martens is pleased with the new direction, but is holding her relief until the vote happens tomorrow, Jan. 4 at 4 p.m.
“If that’s true that’s an amazing turnaround,” Martens says. “We would have no one to thank for that but our very supportive public.”
Martens competed in rhythmic gymnastics in the Olympic Games and has roughly 80 students, including three on the Canadian National Team. She’s operated the gym from her home property on East Vernon Road since 2009. Prior to purchasing the property, she informed the regional district of her plans for the gym and says she was given the go-ahead. There were no issues until 2015 when, according to Martens, a disgruntled parent filed a health and safety complaint with the district. The building inspector found no health and safety issues, Martens says, but found the gym was four times too big for the zoning rules. She was told to apply for a zoning amendment.
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