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Neighbors not happy as club continues to fly remote control aircraft

The Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controller
The Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controller's Association continues to operate in Lake Country, despite the complaints of neighbors and the District of Lake Country.
— image credit: Contributed

When Dale Collins moved to Lake Country a dozen years ago, it was to get away from the hustle and bustle and noise where he lived in Kelowna.

In a rural setting in Lake Country, Collins began raising chickens to sell for meat, raising up to 200 chickens a year and selling them when they reached eight weeks of age.

But when the Kelowna Ogopogo Radio Controllers Association began using their model aircraft on one of his neighbors' properties three years ago, not only did his peace and quiet leave, but so too did Collins' ability to raise and sell the chickens.

"I was running 200 birds a year," said Collins, one of over 30 residents of the area that signed a 2011 petition asking the District of Lake Country to put a stop to the model aircrafts. "But they are very susceptible to stress. The first year I lost 27 birds. They were just falling over and dying."

Fast forward three years and Collins hasn't raised chickens since the model aircraft club began flying near his house. His chicken coop is on the fence neighboring the farm where the Kelowna club is leasing land from a  land-owner. Collins says he was waiting for the planes to leave before starting up again.

But now it's known when that might happen.

Last week the Kelowna radio controllers won a B.C. Court of Appeal decision over the District of Lake Country, which had asked the club to leave the property, citing a stipulation in the Agriculture Land Commission that said the land in question must be used for agriculture purposes.

The appeal court ruled that associated uses included weddings, social events and even model airplane use were allowed on the property, opening the door for the club to continue to fly.

"We don't have one neighbor that enjoys these things," said Collins. "I moved to a dead end, perfectly quiet street and now I have to listen to high powered motors all day. That is my day."

Collins says there are three main issues people are not happy with: The noise, the potential for a fire hazard on properties that are serviced by well water and the devaluation of their property.

"Who wants to buy my nice, quiet, pristine property, walking distance to the lake, when they have this noise they have to listen to from morning until dark?" said Collins.

For its part the radio controllers club is continuing to operate on the property and legally so after the court decision. The District of Lake Country spent an estimated $60,000 in courts costs, first in the 2013 trial when a judge ruled the airplane use was not a proper use and then at the B.C. Court of Appeal trial in Vancouver, which over-turned the decision.

Club president Todd Davis says despite the fact the neighbors and the municipality don't want them in the area, the club will continue to operate under a lease agreement with a property owner. The club uses a portion of the owners 20 acres of land. Interestingly, the parcel the club has been allotted is not near the land-owners' residence but closer to neighbors like Collins.

"It's quite obvious we're not wanted," said Davis. "It makes it difficult. We don't want to be unwanted. Since the ruling we've had a lot of positive comments but the negative stuff is what it is. It's the not in my backyard thing. These are concerns that we take seriously. We did sound testing on Saturday when we were out there and I can't say that we are overly loud."

Lake Country mayor James Baker says it's a frustrating situation having a Lake Country neighborhood upset but having their hands tied by the court decision.

"I can't see why the club couldn't have some conditions on times of day and noise level that would not be disruptive to the neighborhood," said Baker. "They say we are wasting taxpayers money but there are a lot of people that are very upset about the actions of the club."

Collins says he and other neighbors will be attending the June 3 meeting of Lake Country council to see what can be done about the issue.

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