Summerland mayor on urban growth

Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino provided more details this week on the reason behind the vote delay on a contentious land planning issue.

Perrino explained  it was because people were excluded from the first public hearing and there is a lot of misinformation on the matter out there.

"The city manager had been away, and when we told him about the public hearing and that we had to turn people away, he was concerned about that," she said. "He called our lawyer, and the lawyer said it's not good, everybody has to be able to present and listen."

The vote on the matter was slated to take place at Monday's council meeting. The  public hearing was held March 3 at the arena banquet room to discuss the District of Summerland's urban growth strategy.

Hundreds showed up, and people had to be turned away.

The plan includes excluding 199 acres from the Agricultural Land Reserve, near downtown, and including 226 acres in a different area. 

Most of those in attendance spoke out against the plan saying good, much needed farmland is being replaced by marginal hilly land.

A movement known as Stop the Swap, comprised of those strongly opposed to the plan, has organized a rally and invited people to sign a petition regarding the matter.

It is the mayor's understanding, a town hall meeting to give people the facts will be held April 7. The district is still confirming a venue that is big enough.

A date of  April 22 is being discussed for a second pubic hearing, with the district still confirming a venue for that.

Perrino said she is looking forward to clearing up some of the misinformation out there.

For starters, the land they are considering taking out is not nearly as good as everyone thinks it is, and the 226 acres being included is not as bad as people say it is, she explained.

In response to people saying it is a matter of food security, she said there are 7,000 acres of farmland in Summerland.

"We have a lot of land for farming, so we do not have a farmland shortage," she said. "When I hear food security, I want to say, really, we have 7,000 acres."

The mayor also claims it was never a swap, but instead is to do with land planning.

"This is about planning for the future, for where it is best for Summerland to grow," she said. "It could be parkland, it could be homes and community gardens. The bottom line is we absolutely have to have growth."

Much of the concern, she believes, is that no one likes change.

But for Summerland to survive financially, it can't just be farmland. Residential areas are needed because that is what pays for infrastructures, she explained.

"High school enrolment has dropped drastically, businesses are closing," she said. "So we have to have growth. It has to change."

Nor, said Perrino, is there a conflict of interest, as some have claimed.

There are two councillors, Bruce Hallquist and Lloyd Christopherson, with very small acreages within the 199 acres being excluded.

"One has three acres, one has four, and both of them have had land there for over 30 years," she said. "And they have not voted at all, when we talk about this issue."

Furthermore, she said, she takes offence to the claim of a conflict.

"It is unfair and damaging to their characters," she said. "They are both very good men, who are above reproach."

The mayor said she recognizes people will continue to be opposed, and wants to continue to get information out to more people.

"We need to get the message out, about why we have gotten to this stage," she said. "It has been 14 months of public consultation to get to this point."




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