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Zoning dispute puts north Okanagan gymnastics club’s future in question

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Zoning controversy over north Okanagan gymnastics club – Dec 30, 2016

The future of a thriving rhythmic gymnastics club near Vernon is in the hands of Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) area directors.

District staff say the Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics Club is not following zoning rules; their report argued that the gym is more than four times the size of business allowed in a country residential area.

But the gym is seeking an exception to be allowed to stay in their current location in a rural area just outside Vernon.

“I want to make our community better through sports and through loving kids and hope I can continue to do that,” said club owner Camille Martens.

However, an exemption from the zoning rules may be hard to acquire. RDNO staff are recommending that directors don’t change the zoning bylaw, and that the gym should be located in an area zoned for commercial use.

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Staff have also raised the concern that changing the zoning bylaw for the gym could set a precedent for allowing non-agricultural activity in what’s supposed to be an agricultural zone.

“It’s a difficult situation when somebody established something that is contrary to the current bylaws. Bylaws were put in place for a reason,” said RDNO chair Bob Fleming.

“There are a lot of places that an enterprise like this could take place. I’m not sure it had to be on a country residential lot.”

The gym has been in its current location since 2009, but officials only picked up on the zoning issue after a complaint in 2015.

However, Martens said it is not easy to find space for a facility like this in the region. A former Olympian, Martens argued the club was upfront with the regional district about what they planned to use the space for from the start.

“When we moved in they said that we had to have an additional building inspection because we were using it for a different purpose then it had originally been built,” Martens said.

“[The inspector] signed off on a final inspection and that was all based on the use that we are using it now.”
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However, Fleming disagrees. He said the building was inspected as a farm building, not as a gym. Fleming said the regional district doesn’t know whether the inspector knew the building was being used for gymnastics because the inspector no longer works for the RDNO.

The issue goes before RDNO area directors on Wednesday.