Plant expansion approved

Plant expansion approved

B.C. Tree Fruits plant in Lake Country given variance approval.

Lake Country council has opted not to push for road frontage improvements to the BC Tree Fruits plant site on Bottom Wood Lake Road.

Council granted the permit variance to avoid BCTF having to pay an estimated $223,000 for highway and walkway upgrading, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, storm drain system enhancement, street lighting and underground utilities.

The BCTF plant straddles Bottom Wood Lake Road and also the Lake Country-Kelowna municipal boundary.

The plant expansion calls for one-storey building addition covering 4,273 sq.ft. that would add another 66 jobs to the 160-permanent-employee staffed distribution facility.

The addition will house an apple bagging production line enabling apples to be packed faster and fresher, boosting the plant capacity by 30 per cent.

Gary Tebbutt, spokesperson for BCTF appearing before council on Tuesday, said the amount of space the building addition would encroach within Lake Country municipal boundaries is 68 sq. ft.

“That is 1.6 per cent of the total building in square footage, about the equivalent of two sheets of plywood,” Tebbutt said.

Kelowna council had also waived the need for road frontage improvements in signing off on the project.

Tebbutt added BCTF, a co-operative owned by more than 400 Okanagan orchardists, is also open to a longer term solution to transportation and pedestrian concerns along the plant site frontage, and noted the Lake Country plant site could eventually become the head office for the organization, which is currently based in downtown Kelowna.

“The downtown Kelowna office could be sold and the revenue from that reinvested in B.C. Tree Fruits,” said Tebbutt.

BCTF, the co-operative marketing arm for Okanagan tree fruit products, as been undergoing asset changes in recent years, closing down packinghouse operations across the valley and consolidating its industrial operations.

The downtown Kelowna office on Water Street formerly housed both the BCTF and B.C. Fruit Growers Association administrative offices, until the BCFGA, which sold the building to BCTF 15 years ago, relocated to the Vaughan Avenue plant site in Kelowna in 2015.

“In terms of asset usage, that is something BC Tree Fruits has had to wrestle with, where are those investments best made going forward,” said Glen Lucas, general manager of the BCFGA.

While council was generally supportive of the variance application, Coun. Bill Scarrow said he felt the need to speak up for BCTF plant site neighbours worried about increased plant site traffic and pedestrian safeguards.

“There is a history there we all know about and a line has been drawn in the sand between our two communities, but the fact is those people are part of Winfield even though they live within Kelowna and their interests are being ignored,” Scarrow said.

“My position is just to speak up for those people nobody else is speaking up for. I trust that in the long-term, you will be prepared to look after their needs and be the great corporate citizens you have been in the past.”

Coun. Blair Ireland also touched on the industrial traffic issue around the plant site, saying while BCTF’s primary concern is to market and sell fruit, looking after transportation is the municipality’s job.

“We both have our own goals and aspirations but the goal here is for us to work together to each achieve them,” Ireland said.