Penticton council sours on winery expansion

Neighbours had concerns about extra noise and traffic that could have come along with expanded liquor licence

Rob Ingram

Rob Ingram

A local winery hoping to expand its range of operations got a setback this week when Penticton city council decided not to endorse their application to create a winery lounge.

The owners of Perseus Winery on Lower Bench Road had hoped council would support an application to the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to serve food along with wine both inside the winery and on their patio. Their current licence limits them to serving wine for tasting inside the building.

Perseus has a unique location. It’s the first winery you reach as you head out of downtown Penticton, heading to the Naramata Bench. Unlike those wineries in rural settings, Perseus’ main building is in a residential area, with vineyards stretching away to the back of the property.

Rob Ingram, one of the owners of Perseus, said he will be meeting with other shareholders to decide how they will proceed. For himself, he wants to review the meeting to understand how council came to their decision.

“I think a decision was made in there based on a pretty emotional display by some residents that did have a right to be concerned. But I think the only concern was noise,” said Ingram, adding that they were willing to take steps to ameliorate any noise problem and had already planted hedges to help with noise and privacy issues.

Perseus’ neighbours told council they have many concerns about the amount of noise from the proposed winery lounge, especially with the possibility of increased hours of operation, up to 11 p.m.

“We are affected by the tourist traffic, tour buses that park and idle, sometimes for the best part of an hour, and winery operations. We find our right to the quiet enjoyment of our home is negatively affected,” said Neil Campbell, who lives immediately south of the winery.

“We also worry about a negative impact on real estate values. There is nothing rural about the whole process other than the east end of the parking lot,” he said. “This is the wrong thing in the wrong place.”

Sam Elias, a shareholder and director with Perseus, said they had three goals they were trying to reach in order to increase the amount of wine tourists turning up at their winery. Sales were low because the winery looked like a house, so they gave it a makeover, which was scaled back from their original plans, partially in response to concerns expressed by the neighbours at an earlier open house.

They also decided to add an info centre, where other wineries out to Naramata could rack their brochures, making Perseus a first stop to plan the rest of your tour.

“They will be able to put their cards in there that say what wines they serve and even their restaurant menus,” said Elias.

The final goal was to serve a limited food menu, so people could have a snack with their wine while planning.

“It makes sense for people to have a quick meal while they are organizing the rest of their trip,” said Elias.

But after two hours of input from the proponents of the project and neighbours, Coun. John Vassilaki summed up his mixed feelings. What the proponents are proposing is legal for that property, but on the other hand, the people of the neighbourhood have rights to peace and quiet, said Vassilaki.

“This one is very difficult, because I see both sides,” said Vassilaki. “What one has to gain, the other is going to lose.”

A proposal from Coun. Helena Konanz that council support the Perseus application, but with conditions that they address the noise and related issues failed to find a seconder. But a motion from Coun. Wes Hopkin to deny the application passed, with only Konanz and Coun. Judy Sentes opposed.

“This particular development simply is incongruous with the context in which it is situated,” said Hopkin.

Acting mayor Garry Litke, who seconded the motion, said that having visited the site, he could understand some of the neighbourhood concerns, as the winery overlooks some backyards.

“The neighbourhood is currently tolerating it as a tasting room. If there is food provided, then those people will stay longer and create more noise for the neighbourhood,” said Litke. “My concern is the integrity of the residential neighbourhood being maintained.”