Kelowna city council has offered its support to the vision behind an ambitious culinary college at a Southwest Mission winery despite several concerns over the potential execution.
The “Culinary College for Humanity” is proposed on Summerhill Pyramid Winery land by its proprietor Stephen Cipes.
Council chose on Monday (March 22), by a 5-3 vote to send the project to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) for consideration, a necessity due to the school’s proposed location on land reserved for agricultural use. If the ALC approves the non-farm use, the application will come back to council for a development permit. Councillors Luke Stack, Mohini Singh and Ryan Donn voted against the endorsement, with Stack saying council needed to show the ALC it didn’t forward the matter to them without concern.
“The ALC should be aware we have concerns and it’s not a slam dunk,” said Stack.
Previously, council deferred its decision on the school, citing the need to hear more from Cipes on the facility’s use. Councillors said they feared the school might end up being used as a “hotel in a vineyard.”
Cipes provided council further insight into his lofty plans on Monday, while taking questions from council alongside a panel of consultants, with Mayor Colin Basran calling it the “most eclectic” he’d ever seen. Cipes and his consultants assured council those staying at the school would have to be enrolled in classes. People would have to enroll in classes then book their accommodations around that.
Cipes admitted that agri-tourism is a large aspect of their business via short-stay classes ranging from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. The school is also planning to offer long-term classes in the six- to eight-month range and is working to secure an accredited program via the Canadian Culinary Institute. His vision is to churn out chefs who will place high importance on the ethical sourcing of food, something he says is currently lacking in the culinary industry.
Much of council’s concerns stemmed from the scale of the proposed facility. Currently, the school is planned to offer 150 beds in both rooms and dorm-style accommodations in an eight-floor 35,000-square-foot building.
Though council’s support for the project came with hesitancy, if the ALC approves it, councillors will again have the chance to debate the appropriateness of the school’s scale during development permit deliberations.
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