Okanagan College has received Agricultural Land Commission permission to allow use of a portion of its Vernon campus for development of a community-owned $7.8 million multi-use sports facility.
The College learned of the ALC's decision late Tuesday. The decision pertains to a 5.8-hectare portion of the campus that is within the Agricultural Land Reserve. The property is bordered by Highway 97 and College Way.
"This is welcome news," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. "When we announced the concept of this project last December with our partners from the Regional District, Coldstream and Vernon, we acknowledged that there are several hurdles to overcome. Given that our Board had agreed to lease the property to the Regional District over the next 40 years, the first major one was to obtain Agricultural Land Commission permission for a non-conforming use on the property in question."
Initially, in March this year, the ALC said no, but a subsequent reconsideration at the College's request led to this decision. The College and the Regional District supplied additional information about further anticipated demand for agricultural land for sports, parks and recreation facilities within the Greater Vernon area.
"Clearly, there is significant support for this concept," says Jane Lister, Okanagan College's North Okanagan Regional Dean. "We can see benefits for the communities we serve, as well as for our students and the campus. The project's progress is now in the hands of Greater Vernon Services, the Regional District, Vernon and Coldstream."
The proposed facility includes an Olympic size rubberized track, a lighted artificial playing field and a field house. It also incorporates track and field facilities, and bleachers.
The ALC set two conditions on the approval of the non-conforming use:
• that topsoil be retained on the site and be used to develop the fields, or stored in berms at the edge of the site
• that the facility be developed within three years.