Driving the Okanagan Connector between Merritt and Peachland may not be so lonely in coming years.
The owners of a property on Highway 97C about halfway between the two communities on Thursday obtained the rezoning required to build a gas station, drive-thru restaurant, commercial fuel card-lock facility and highway maintenance yard.
In a letter to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, owners Jason and Sarah Smith said the project presents a “great opportunity . . . to service an area that is currently lacking.”
“Travellers (be it the general public or commercial truckers) going between Peachland and Merritt, or traversing the area more broadly, have little to no options for refuelling, having a meal, resting facility or recreational facility.”
They note the highway maintenance yard is proposed as a result of conversations with contractors who have bemoaned the lack of facilities for them on the Connector.
“This saves contractors from having to return to either Peachland or Merritt to collect sand or salt in the event of snowy roads. As the geographic location of the subject site is in the middle of the two notable towns, it helps the contractor to maintain both sides of the highway with ease,” the Smiths wrote.
An RDOS staff report notes part of the property is already zoned for commercial uses — and it was at one time used for a gas station and accommodations — but not on the portion adjacent to Highway 97C where the owners want to build now.
While such a development would be “incongruous” with surrounding development, of which there is little, the report suggests the proposal would be of benefit to travellers in the region and recommends in favour of the rezoning, which was granted third reading unanimously by the board.
Fourth and final reading has been withheld until such time as a covenant is registered on the property requiring a storm drainage system and contamination prevention system.