Rezoning for contentious planned 219-unit complex approved by Penticton council

Contentious rezoning a go

A contentious rezoning paving the way for a new 200-plus unit development has gotten the green light from Penticton council, after a two-hour public hearing with a mix of opinions.

Radec Group has planned the development on a 6.6-acre lot on Timmins Street, located behind Okanagan College and Canadian Tire. They needed council to rezone the lot from industrial to medium density, which council did Tuesday night in a 6-1 vote.

Ahead of the public hearing, the Okanagan College Student Union came out publicly in support of the development, while the Friends of Timmins Street group distributed flyers, started a petition and created a website in opposition.

A packed room Tuesday night saw dozens of speakers stand to argue both sides, in a hearing that lasted two hours.

"It's hard to hire people. It's hard to hire people because they can't find a place to live," a representative of the Radec Group told the room, urging the rezoning approval.

"We have a vacancy rate of less than one per cent. When you go into a market like this that's tight, it drives the price up. The only way to combat that is to add more stock into the rental market and the for sale market."

Multiple members of the Friends of Timmins Street also spoke, as well as others who listed their nearby addresses, worried about increased traffic in the neighbourhood and changes to the character of the neighbourhood.

Some also noted that this is not planned as a student or affordable housing complex.

But staff members and students from Okanagan College threw their weight behind the project, as well as some Chamber of Commerce members.

Council discussed the matter at length after the hearing, with some councillors and the mayor bringing up the importance of keeping industrial land, but concluding that the more important issue at hand is a lack of housing that directly affects local business' abilities to find workers.

Mayor John Vassilaki also noted that the industrial land has not had a tenant since 2007.

"It it was such a valuable piece of industrial land, why hasn't an industrialist come forward?" Vassilaki said.

"I understand [the street] has been quiet for a long time, but that's life in a city," Coun. Katie Robinson said, explaining she has confidence the neighbourhood will adjust.

The rezoning passed 6-1 with Coun. James Miller dissenting, calling on Okanagan College to do a better job of providing housing in Penticton for their students.

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