Major development for Okanagan Falls likely off the rails

Company seeking to redo former Weyerhaeuser mill site may walk away because of another regulatory hurdle thrown up by RDOS

The former Weyerhauser mill site in Okanagan Falls has played a key role in plans to revitalize the community

The former Weyerhauser mill site in Okanagan Falls has played a key role in plans to revitalize the community

A plan to inject new life into Okanagan Falls through the redevelopment of an industrial park has “likely” been derailed.

Following years of planning, the company seeking to rezone the former Weyerhaesuer site appears unwilling to jump over a new regulatory hurdle.

“We’re likely done,” said Jim Morrison, one of the principals in Zinfandel Holdings, which is working with  Weyerhaesuer to redevelop the 63-hectare former mill site at the south end of Okanagan Falls.

He was reacting to a decision Thursday by the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to proceed to a public hearing on a new version of its Official Community Plan for Area D-2. A proposed policy in that document  specifically calls for the Weyerhaesuer site to remain an industrial area.

Morrison asked the board to soften that policy or remove it entirely before the plan is put to the public. Zinfandel wants to build 200 homes on the property that is says are required to make the rest of the project, featuring a mix of industrial and commercial uses, economically viable.

The company has spent three years and $300,000 doing environmental work and is close to applying for the necessary rezoning, Morrison said, but the new OCP policy as written presents too much hassle and risk.

“It wasn’t a maybe before, and now it is,” he said.

Tom Siddon, the RDOS director for Okanagan Falls, noted afterwards the board could still amend or remove the OCP policy to which Zinfandel objects, or grant an amendment later.

“I regret any decision they might make to pull the plug,” said Siddon, but “nothing in this process has denied them the opportunity to continue with their application.”

He noted the RDOS spent two years drafting the new OCP for Area D-2 and followed processes established by law.

“If we bring (the result of that) procedure to the front of the board then at the last minute we amend it for the sake of an interest like (Zinfandel’s), it looks like maybe it’s political interference.”

However, if the company does walk away, “it means we have to reassess the whole thrust and focus of our economic development program for Okanagan Falls,” Siddon said.

Morrison also complained that his company wasn’t brought into the process of creating the new OCP.