The Okanagan Rhythmic Gymnastics club has overcome a major hurdle.
Regional District of North Okanagan directors voted Wednesday to change the zoning so the gym facility can continue on East Vernon Road. An application will also be submitted to the Agricultural Land Commission to sanction non-farm status for the building.
“‘I’m glad the voice of the people has pushed for some change,’ said Camille Martens, club owner.
RDNO had initially received a recommendation not your legalize the land use because of zoning. However, numerous letters against RDNO’s plans were received and about 150 people crowded into the RDNO office Wednesday to back the club.
Martens says she consulted with RDNO when she purchased the property in 2009 to ensure a gym would be allowed in the existing structure. But RDNO received a public and safety complaint about the facility and that led to the initial recommendation not to legalize the land use.
Martens says she’s been frustrated by the regional district’s actions.
“It’s been a two-year nightmare that’s been exhausting,” she said.
Bob Fleming, RDNO chairperson, insists the district was trying to be consistent with land use issues and he’s not sure if the public conflict could have been avoided.
“Local governments are set up to be responsive, including with public sentiment,” said Fleming, who admits RDNO’s image has been bruised.
“Are the optics good, no. But we followed a process and it also shows how democracy works.”
Zoning changes will not proceed until the ALC has agreed to a rhythmic gymnastics facility being considered a non-farm use on the property.
Based on other non-farm uses being granted, Fleming is optimistic about the gym’s bid.
“It has the full support of the whole board,” he said, adding that all letters sent to RDNO by the public will be forwarded to the ALC.
“It would be unlikely they would turn it down but we can’t presupposed the outcome.”
Prior to any rezoning, RDNO wants a professional engineer’s report outlining any necessary alterations needed to bring the building up to provincial code so it can be used as a gym.
“We wouldn’t let a school go ahead if it didn’t meet the building code,” said Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director.
“We have spent a great deal of time looking at options to ensure the business can proceed while protecting safety.”
Martens questions why a building permit is needed when there have been numerous inspections of the structure.
“We’ve given them engineering reports that it’s safe,” she said.