Only a handful of people know Rotary Beach as well as Marc Brillinger.
“I’m a kite boarder, area resident, stand up paddler—I don’t think anyone uses that beach as much as I have,” he said.
That familiarity with the beach made his initial reaction to early dock development at Manteo Resort, admittedly, predictable.
“When they did the first section a few weeks ago, I thought that was bad,” he said.
What followed, however, is something he said should rile everyone who values public spaces.
“Then they went a 100 metres in the lake in front of Rotary Beach and I thought, ‘That’s crazy,’” he said. “Then, before you knew it, there were pilings.”
The 172-slip dock development that’s to follow is mapped out in government documents to measure about 2.2 hectares of surface water.
Making it more significant in scope is that each slip will be fitted with a lift, so boats won’t sit in the water, they’ll be hoisted above.
“It’s a public beach and one of the most pristine and beautiful in the Okanagan. It’s really spectacular,” Brillinger said.
“Now this will block the supernatural view to Peachland. They’ve completely eliminated the view across the lake.
“They’ve reached a new low for extracting public resources for private wealth. It’s just mind numbing what they’ve done.”
A land act application to build the new dock was filed with the B.C. Ministry of Forests, the government body in charge of approving such developments, Dec. 24, 2009.
Greig Bethel, a public affairs officer for the ministry, said in an email that the project was then approved by the ministry Aug. 21, 2013, and Transport Canada recently provided its OK for the proposal.
All of these approvals, Bethel said, were put in place with ample public consultation.
That meant the city was asked if they had issues with the proposal, and apparently they didn’t.
The applicant, Manteo Resort owner Adrian Block, also twice advertised his intent to build out in a local newspaper and received little complaint.
Block may have jumped through all the right hoops, but Brillinger said that raises questions about why the standard was so low for such a wide-reaching, mega-project.
“Why did the province authorize that thing? The balance between business and corporate institutional is skewed and that dock exemplifies that,” he said.
He also has concerns about why the developer didn’t follow the lead of his contemporaries, and engage in his own public consultation.
A different local developer, Brillinger said, did two years of stakeholder consultation for a much smaller scale development. The City of Kelowna, when it was talking about redoing parts of Rotary Beach, brought in all the key stakeholders for a number of meetings.
This project is coming as a surprise to all who have seen it, he said.
Block wasn’t able to answer questions of why the project slipped by so silently, as he’s out of town, but resort general manager Heather Schroeter said nothing surreptitious was done.
It was simply a matter of following the process as it’s been laid out.
“There’s been call for input over the years. There has been opportunity for public input,” she said. “Block has those details.”
Schroeter also added that the scope of the development won’t initially be as significant as they’ve been approved for.
“We’re just doing the first row, so around 40 slips,” she said.
There are 20 for resort guests, 20 for Smack Dab guests and 10 are boat rentals.
“Then in the fall we might put in another 20, so that will be 60,” she said.
There’s no firm timeline for when the next 112 slips will go in, but the initial phase should be completed by June.
Once in, Schroeter doesn’t think it will have a significant impact on lake users.
“There are paddlers and kite surfers and everything out there,” she said.
“In our opinion, it doesn’t change the area that much. It’s a big lake in front of Rotary Beach.”
The problem, as she sees it, is that people have a hard time adapting to change.
“We are just trying to make the waterfront nicer for everyone,” she said.
“We wouldn’t be doing it if we thought it was the wrong thing for the people.”
A boardwalk project that goes hand in hand with the other development is scheduled to get underway in May.
That will be done for summer as well.