Stewardship group opposes proposed commercial campground on Vaseux Lake

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Stewardship group opposes proposed commercial campground on Vaseux Lake
Stewardship group opposes proposed commercial campground on Vaseux Lake – May 12, 2020

It’s described as one of the jewels of the South Okanagan.

Vaseux Lake is a serene, environmentally sensitive ecosystem, home to a migratory bird sanctuary and surrounded by conservation areas.

But a lake stewardship group consisting of local homeowners is concerned that a proposed commercial campground could threaten what makes the area so special.

A private property owner is proposing to construct a 35-unit campground on a 1.2-hectare parcel of land along the waterfront at 3500 Highway 97, between Oliver and Okanagan Falls.

The proponent, however, first needs approval from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), as the property is within the agricultural land reserve.

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Norm Gaumont, chair of the Vaseux Lake Stewardship Association, says the group is concerned the development could destroy the sensitive shoreline ecosystem.

A sign at the property says a new winery, called Ramification Cellars, will open soon. Shelby Thom\Global News

“We have to take into consideration the preservation here,” Gaumont told Global News on Tuesday. “It’s right along the water and ideal habitat for birds and wildlife.

Gaumont says opponents also fear sewage from the site could leak into Vaseux Lake.

“We get all-of-a-sudden, all kinds of algae blooms,” he said. “We have milfoil, an invasive species that takes over the lake, which then reduces circulation. All of this is very negative for the wildlife and the fish habitat.”

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Other concerns include traffic congestion on an already busy stretch of highway and safety issues, as the site access is located directly off Highway 97.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,000 people signed an online petition against the development.

The property is currently home to a vineyard, wine production facility and tasting room. Shelby Thom\Global News

Ecora Engineering, the agent for the property owner, says in its preliminary application to the ALC that the site is adjacent to the protected area and bird sanctuary, and the sensitive waterfront area will remain protected from development.

The commercial campground “will complement the winery business and provide much needed tourism facilities in the South Okanagan and support local agricultural operations,” the firm says.

Various property owners have a history of applying to the ALC for development approvals dating back to 1979.

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The most recent decision, in 2010, allowed the exclusion and subdivision of 29 lakeshore RV strata lots, subject to conditions, including planting the vineyard and developing the winery.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen says the land is zoned for a commercial campground and without a zoning amendment required, the RDOS must refer the application to the ALC, which will happen in the coming weeks.

Ecora Engineering and the property owner have not responded to requests for comment.

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