Penticton project questioned

Following a Dec. 7 public hearing, where much concern was raised about four variances sought in a controversial rezoning proposal for an eight-unit, four-storey (with additional rooftop “appurtenances”) project for 602 Lakeshore Drive, final decision on that rezoning was withheld until it passed by a narrow margin at the Jan. 18 council meeting.

Concerns expressed at the hearing included the subject lot was too small for the proposed building in order to accommodate the requested RM3 rezoning designation. Although not explicitly disclosed or stated in the staff report and presentation to council and the public, the lot is 28% deficient in width and 20% deficient in total area for compliance with zoning bylaw requirements.

How could this degree of discrepancy not be overtly considered in staff’s recommendation to council that this rezoning be approved?

At the Jan. 18 council meeting, Coun. Frank Regehr’s researched, well-presented conclusions regarding the above shortcomings were ignored. Coun. Katie Robinson felt this was like any other rezoning and that it was fully justified “in black and white” by the lot’s future land use designation as urban residential, when in fact, other factors requiring consideration exist in the OCP.

The consensus and comments by the four councillors who ultimately voted to approve the rezoning were dismaying. This will be the tallest building in the immediate neighbourhood. The impacts of reduced side yard setbacks along with small changes to other variances (including reduced landscaping) appeared to be of little concern to them.

The developer stated Lakeshore Drive is in transition as apparent justification for his proposal. So having “done her homework”, Robinson might have advised how that relates to policies in the OCP, such as Section, which requires “neighbourhood redevelopment plans in areas undergoing—or proposed to undergo—transition, to ensure… an appropriate scale and design.”

If the neighbourhood, with its known heritage architecture, is indeed in transition, the public would likely expect to be advised of the city’s progress on the status of those redevelopment plans for this high-profile area of Lakeshore Drive, especially given that a review of the OCP is approaching.

This rezoning sets a worrisome precedent for maintaining the OCP’s form and character objectives for Lakeshore Drive, and for Penticton as a whole.

Sincere thanks go to Couns. Judy Sentes, Frank Regehr and James Miller for their considered comments and votes against the 602 Lakeshore Drive rezoning.

Denis O’Gorman

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