British Columbia

Proposed lighthouse-shaped wine tasting tower not getting glowing reviews in West Kelowna, B.C.

City council in West Kelowna, B.C., has postponed discussion on whether to approve Saskatchewan-based Monette Farms' plans to build a 35-metre lighthouse tasting tower on its vineyard.

New winery says 9-storey structure will be a landmark; some city councillors aren't seeing the light

Saskatchewan-based Monette Farms proposes to build a lighthouse-shaped wine tasting centre at its estate winery along Highway 97 in West Kelowna, B.C. (City of West Kelowna)

West Kelowna, B.C., is happy with a new winery to boost its agri-tourism industry, but has second thoughts about a nine-storey building planned for the vineyard.

On Tuesday, the Okanagan city's council voted unanimously to support Monette Farms' proposal to create Goat's Peak Winery on Highway 97. But it postponed discussion on the company's plan to build a 35-metre lighthouse-shaped wine tasting facility.

Monette Farms bought the land near a regional park last fall. In its letters to the city council, the Saskatchewan-based company says it envisions the lighthouse as a tourist attraction, where visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the city and Okanagan Lake from the top.

West Kelowna's official community plan doesn't address the height of buildings on agricultural land, but the city's zoning bylaw limits them to 15 metres. So city council will have to decide whether to approve a development variance permit that would allow Monette Farms to build a taller structure.

'Epitome of bad taste'

If approved, the lighthouse would be the tallest building in West Kelowna.

Coun. Carol Zanon said there's no way the lighthouse construction plan will get past her until she hears from the public.

"I deplore this as the epitome of bad taste," she said in the Tuesday council meeting. "It cast a pall of atmosphere over the whole side of that mountain."

Other wineries in the Okanagan have structural landmarks similar to the lighthouse, such as the pyramid at Kelowna's Summerhill Pyramid Winery and the bell tower at West Kelowna's Mission Hill Winery, which is 33.8 m tall. 

West Kelowna's Mission Hill Winery bell tower is 33.8 m tall. ( Mission Hill Winery)

West Kelowna Mayor Gord Milsom says the lighthouse landmark will definitely be a unique tourist destination, but agrees that the city council needs more information from Monette Farms before giving it a green light.

"I don't object to new ideas, thinking outside the box," said Milsom in the council meeting. "I'm not ready to discount it by any means, but ... we want to hear a bit more from the public."

There's no plan for a public consultation yet, but Coun. Doug Findlater has already heard polarized views about the proposed lighthouse.

"I get different reactions that this is a ghastly piece of junk that's totally out of place," he said. "Other people think it's a wonderful landmark."

"We have to make the right decision because it is an imposing structure."

Should West Kelowna say yes to the lighthouse, the structure still needs approval from  B.C. Agricultural Land Commission before it can be built.

Goat's Peak Winery expects to begin producing wine with purchased grapes in 2021, expanding to 8,000 cases a year in 2025 using a blend of grapes from its own vineyard and other growers.

With files from Brady Strachan and Daybreak South

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