Winery expansion upsetting

Plans by the owner of  West Kelowna’s Mission Hill Family Estate Winery to add a hotel, restaurant, wellness centre, guest cottages and a brewery to land he owns adjacent to the existing winery have hit a road block in the form opposition to increased traffic the expansion will create in the neighbourhood.

Residents living near the winery say they already have to contend with trucks traveling up their streets to the winery at all times of the day and night, and say without an alternate route traffic is only going to get worse.

At a recent public hearing for the development, which attracted close to 200 people, most who spoke during the 4 1/2-hour meeting expressed the same sentiment—if not for the lack of an alternative route, they would likely support the plan to build the upscale resort.

“I would say 90 per cent would support it if there was an alternative route,” lawyer Tom Smithwick told West Kelowna council during the public hearing.

He said he was hired by 76 residents in the area to represent their views.

“Let’s make this a win-win situation. Find an alternate route.”

But winery owner Anthony Von Mandl said there are only two options for an alternative route and neither is feasible.

“We have looked at both,” he said.

The first, would be to build a road from the winery across Westbank First Nation land but that is not possible because the WFN has already refused permission.

The proposed route, it says, would interfere with its plans for a future reservoir. The other option is to build the road on what has been described as a 45-degree slope. That land is considered far too steep for a road, he said.

A traffic consultant hired by Von Mandl’s Mark Anthony Group has done traffic projections, which indicate that while an  increase in traffic in the area will occur as a result of the development, it will not be substantial.

And the consultant says traffic calming measures could be implemented by the municipality to reduce speed on some of the residential streets.

While most at the public hearing opposed the multi-year, multi-phase development on the slope to the south of the winery, there were some who said they supported it. They said it would be a major boost for the local economy.

Von Mandl described the facilities, including the proposed 160-room hotel, as a place for people who are immune to fluctuations of the economy. People, he said, who would fly in this area on their own private jets and be driven to the hotel.

But resident after resident rose to say the prospect of 10 years of construction, the added traffic, the increased noise and the speed of additional traffic will wreck their neighbourhood, an area they chose for its quiet tranquility and lake views.

Mission Hill is located on top of a hill overlooking Okanagan Lake and part of Lakeview Heights.

With its distinctive bell tower, it has become a local icon.

Von Mandl said when he decided to plant vineyards and build the winery there in the early 1980s, there was opposition because some felt there should be homes build there instead. But now most people like the fact the winery is there.

And he said it would be the same for his latest plan. People will embrace the development once they see it.

The project, if approved, could cost as much as $100 million over the next 10 years.

But many of the residents who spoke at the public hearing said they already have to deal with commercial traffic going to and leaving the winery that keeps them awake at night and is becoming a hazard on streets such as Mission Hill Road, Vineyard Drive and Ridge Boulevard.

West Kelowna council will consider the information it was presented at the public hearing and make a decision on whether to allow  the phased development plan as presented a a later date.



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