July 10, 2012

Waterfront development evokes nostalgic feel

Craftsman-style cottages, wraparound porches designed to speak to a simpler time

Veranda Beach at Lake Osoyoos

Project location: Oroville, Wash.
Project size/scope: 125+ freehold lakeside, beach and vineyard cottages on 868 acres. Amenities include a ‘50s-style diner, communal swimming pool, toddlers’ pool, hot tub, fitness centre, activity room, and marina with boat launch, watercraft rentals. Plans for an additional 275 cottages, adult-only pool, golf course, vineyard pavilion and amphitheatre.
Cottage prices: From $329,900 for an 819-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage to $689,900 for a 1,500-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-bathroom lakeside home and coach house.
Monthly homeowner fees: $315 to $395 covers exterior cottage maintenance, landscaping, communications package
Contact: Mae Cunningham, sales specialist
Telephone: 1-866-837-2632
Email: Mae Cunningham at mae@verandabeach.com
Occupancy: Immediate/build to suit


The screen door smacks shut as Crystal Shields’s two active boys dart in and out of the cottage for the fifth time in about as many seconds. Truth is, Crystal couldn’t care less. “Let the door slam,” she says reclining in her Adirondack chair. “They can’t do this at home. This is built-in family time and time for the kids to just run and go. I feel much more comfortable here.” Crystal, 39, and her husband Jody, who live four hours away in Langley, are among more than 100 families who have bought into a unique recreation property on Osoyoos Lake at the foot of B.C.’s Okanagan Valley. One of the things that makes the development different from anything else in the valley is that it is located just 10 minutes south of the U.S. border.

Veranda Beach, near the tiny Washington state town of Oroville, is the brainchild of Okanagan developer Jim Hammond and his partners in Legend Resorts. “We are not saddled here with all the taxation we have in Canada,” says Hammond, who has several developments to his credit in B.C. “No HST, no GST, and we don’t have development charges for services such as sewer and water.”

Avoiding those charges and striking a good deal on 868 acres of land that includes two kilometres of private beachfront allowed Hammond to bring to market Craftsman-style cottages that start at $329,900. At much less than the B.C. equivalent, it’s no wonder that 80 per cent of buyers in the last four years have been Canadian.

“When we started, we really felt Veranda Beach at Lake Osoyoos should be ground oriented with people having their own cottage on the lake,” said project architect Ray Letkeman. The result is a village of one- and two-storey cottages clustered around wide and inviting common grass areas. While only a handful of them are beachfront, view corridors and easements to the beach permit even cottages set behind other cottages to enjoy a sense of being on the water. Adding to the camp feel are gravel pathways winding through the entire development.

Also key to the successful design is the absence of cars. Narrow fire lanes allow residents to pull up beside their cottages to drop off groceries or other supplies and then relegate their cars to perimeter parking lots. This car-free environment gave Letkeman more freedom in designing the cottages around the common green areas: “It’s all about encouraging interaction among the owners.” Cottage exterior finishes are varied and include cedar shingle, board-and-batten and bevelled siding. But all have one common feature: a screened-in wraparound veranda.

The verandas, obviously central to the resort concept, are a throwback to Hammond’s summer holidays as a child at his grandfather’s cottage in Saskatchewan. “I remember we used to sleep most nights on that veranda,” he says wistfully. When we started talking about cottages and reminiscing about our childhoods, we found my colleagues had similar experiences. The veranda was from the beginning a kind of focal point that led to a simpler time. “

So it’s no great surprise to find a ’50s diner — The Globe — at the centre of camp life there. Patrons can sit on one of the round chrome fixed stools, and order a burger and shake or a variety of other more upscale meals, all to the background sound of 1950s music. Right next door is the general store, where residents can stock up on food and other supplies or T-shirts sporting the crossed-paddles Veranda Beach logo.

Adjacent to the store are a large swimming pool, hot tub and toddler’s pool, along with deck chairs, and other amenities, such as a fitness room and activity centre. In the cottages, the retro theme is more token. Coffee mugs featuring the faces of James Dean of Rebel Without A Cause fame and Breakfast At Tiffany’s star Audrey Hepburn are mixed with modern appliances, including washer and dryer.

People are nostalgic but not so much that they will accept everything from the past. Says Letkeman, “It would be hard to sell an outhouse at Veranda Beach.” “You have to have at least two washrooms per cottage, whereas back in the ’50s there was only one. “These days people expect an open space plan inside: back then the rooms were broken up and had only minimal-size windows and doors.” The bathrooms are generously sized, one with a glass shower stall, the other with a tub.

Vaulted ceilings add to the sense of space and electric fireplaces warm up cooler spring and fall evenings. Some cottages can be ordered with wood-burning stoves. All come with heat pumps, which double as air conditioners in summer. They’re needed here: daytime temperatures in July and August rarely drop below 30 degrees and have been known to hover in the low 40s. Those temperatures also account for the border-spanning lake’s reputation as the warmest in Canada with summer water temperatures hitting 27 degrees.

Owners also have access to Veranda Beach marina, which features private moorage and a broad assortment of rentable water toys, from wake surfers to fully equipped ski boats. Every cottage comes with all the furnishings, from the comfortably upholstered sofas and chairs to the linens and cutlery. Also part of the total package is a premium quality Weber propane barbecue. “It would be difficult for a homeowner to buy this stuff and bring it all, so it’s a lot easier for us to do it,” said Hammond. It also provides a standardized product for the Veranda Beach rental program, which markets and administers rentals for about a third of the owners, with cottages commanding $199 to $755 a night.

It would be hard to sell an outhouse at Veranda Beach. You have to have at least two washrooms per cottage, whereas back in the ’50s there was only one.
Ray Letkeman
veranda beach Project architect

While the lakeside cottages appeal to younger families, Veranda Beach also caters to another prominent demographic: the empty nester. New cottages on the beach east of the main village provide 1,500 square feet, plus another 300 square feet of veranda space. On the same lot is a unique amenity: a 300-square-foot coach house atop a garage, well suited to grandchildren or guests.

Yet another cottage version for empty nesters is being built on the benchlands above the village and Lake Osoyoos. These, too, are clustered — in groups of four — around a central courtyard framed by grape arbours. On-site garages allow for an SUV, and a golf cart used for tootling down to the village or the planned golf course. What makes these cottages particularly unusual is that they are set amid plantings of Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Riesling grape vines carefully nurtured by Veranda’s own winemaker and staff. This would be impossible to duplicate in Canada, where the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve dictates a strict separation of residential and agricultural land.

These vineyard cottages, designed to appeal to the growing and affluent empty nesters, will include an adults-only swimming pool, vineyard pavilion with space to store wine in a temperature-controlled locker, regular wine tastings and lectures, and exclusive access to Veranda Beach estate-produced wines.

Above the vineyards and up the side of Cactus Mountain lies the next frontier for Hammond and his partners: developing hundreds of acres of near-desert land into a golf course. During a tour in his SUV via a dirt track up the side of Cactus Mountain, he explains that a representative of famed golf course designer Tom Doak has visited the site. Doak is renowned for building courses that minimize the impact on the environment.

More cottages will be incorporated into the remaining acreage — the master plan calls for a total of 450 cottages on the 868-acre site. Hammond says he expects this work to begin in three to five years, but it ultimately depends on the market.

Special to The Sun

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