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Lake Okanagan Resort future bleak one year after fire

Efforts to rebuild the resort at a standstill 10 months after devastating fire, according to Okanagan area director
Lake Okanagan Resort sustained extensive damage in the McDougall Creek Wildfire in August 2023

The dream of a phoenix rising from the ashes of Lake Okanagan Resort is fading.

More than 10 months since the McDougall Creek wildfire destroyed or damaged most of the buildings at the resort, efforts to rebuild appear to be at a standstill.

“Unless we can bring the owner of the hotel and the property to the table in a constructive way, I don’t see a path forward. You can’t live without sewer and water,” said Wayne Carson, Central Okanagan West director with the Regional District of Central Okanagan board.

So far, the owner of the hotel and resort property has not indicated a desire to restore water, sewer and other services that people need to rebuild, or even live in units that were not damaged by the fire.

“He bought it about 10 years ago and he really didn’t do anything in that 10 years period, so to expect him to come forward and be helpful now? I don’t have that kind of faith, unfortunately,” said Carson.

In a letter to Kelowna-West MLA Ben Stewart, one resident says their condo was their retirement home. He says the strata wants to rebuild but would need individual permits to build its own water and waste treatment facilities, but the owner of the resort (1782 Holdings) controls those permits.

“It is a big mess right now and could be many years before it is rebuilt if at all. We need your help on this as our strata cannot work on this without the cooperation of 1782 Holdings.

"The remaining unburnt dwellings have no water, electricity or waste treatment facilities, and it will take a lot of money to get this all rebuilt. This applies not only to our strata, but the other stratas that will be in a similar position without infrastructure such as sewage and water,” said the letter.

“It would be a real shame if this former jewel of the Okanagan was left to decay. 1782 Holdings have been unresponsive to any inquiries including the payment of their strata fees - which has left the rest of funding the strata.”

Carson says it’s likely that the water and sewer systems might have to be rebuilt and that comes with a very hefty price tag.

“I think Interior Health has let us down greatly the way they let those systems deteriorate over the years so that they were almost worthless at the time of the fire. Which means that rebuild is going to be pretty much be 100 per cent of both the sewer and water, to get them back online.

“I would even want to guess what that cost would be. It’s going to be in the millions, for sure,” he suggests.

Lake Okanagan Resort was assessed nearly $50,000 in penalties for multiple violations of sewage system permits in 2022.

MLA Ben Stewart says he met with the man behind 1782 Holdings earlier this year, “because I was having trouble getting any answers at all."

"Just nobody at Lake Okanagan Resort other than what I was reading about, you know, the fines and penalties that were assessed from previous violations of permits, both on wastewater and other issues they were having on site," he said.

Unfortunately, Stewart says he didn’t feel he was going to get anywhere with "Mr. Lui."

His next step was to go to the regional district, and then the Minister of Housing, Ravi Kahlon, to find out if something can be done under provincial strata regulations.

“It is one of those incredibly difficult situations,” said Stewart. “There are some stratas that are very well informed and a lot of them are out of the province, a lot of the ownership, so that makes it very difficult.

“But there’s people that live there and they are now without a home and living in temporary accommodation. It’s not one of these things that’s very…well, it’s not common. I’ve never heard of it before.”

Glacier Media also asked the Ministry of Housing about the plight of the resort. We received a statement saying that strata disputes may be resolved within the strata corporation, using the Civil Resolution Tribunal, through arbitration or by going to court.

“The responsibility for policing or regulating timeshares, or any private real estate contract, does not fall under the Ministry of Housing. We would encourage all parties involved to seek legal advice as a group in this situation,” added the ministry.

Carson agrees that legal action might be the only option left. However, he also points out that there are at least seven different stratas on the property.

“I doesn’t look good for them. And in talking to some of the residents, it looks like the owners of the hotel also own some of the stratas, which is making it extremely difficult for the residents, other than the owner of the hotel, to get a quorum together to even make a settlement, “ he said.

As the one year anniversary of the fire approaches, the clock is ticking to get insurance payouts and start construction.

“Time is not on their side,” says Carson “I know from residents that I talked to from the 2021 White Rock Lake fire, that beyond two years, your insurance company really loses interest in you fast.”