Seniors group worried delays in permit approval will spell the end of an affordable housing complex

Seniors housing in jeopardy?

A former mayor of Peachland is worried delays for the second phase of an affordable housing project for seniors will cost the project millions in federal and provincial funding.

Keith Fielding, the president of the Peachland Seniors Support Society (PSSS), reached out to Castanet to express his concerns over how long it’s taking the District of Peachland to respond to a rezoning and development permit application.

“The society’s rezoning and development permit application was submitted to the district 10 months ago and to date has yielded only a variety of red flags: processing delays; resolution of planning concerns complicated by an outsourced planning process,” wrote Fielding in an email.

He points out that PSSS has established a pathway to millions of dollars of provincial and federal funding to build a second phase of seniors housing on district-owned lands on 5th Street.

“This funding has been secured in light of commitments made by the previous council to lease the land for the project and to waive development cost charges (DCCs) and planning fees. However, it now seems that some decision makers do not see the provision of another 73 units of affordable seniors housing to be a priority or even perhaps, a desirable goal,” wrote Fielding, who was mayor for two terms between 2008 and 2014.

He says the housing project could collapse if it does not get the go-ahead from the current district council.

“We will then need to advise the Province that the $500,000 already spent over the past two years on pre-development costs has been wasted; that we no longer need their proposed $8 million capital contribution; and, that their anticipated $500,000 annual operating subsidy will not be required. Federally, we will need to decline a potential $3 million CMHC contribution, and a preferred rate CMHC mortgage,” Fielding adds.

Peachland’s chief administrative officer says at this point in negotiations two issues need to be resolved before the housing complex can move forward. One is parking, the other is how to fund development cost charges (DCC).

Joe Creron says waiving development cost charges will likely push up taxes in 2024.

“As part of phase two former council recommended to waive DCCs, amounting to $1,089,598 which means the District needs to contribute that sum of money. Therefore, if we were to fund the shortfall through taxation next year as part of the 2024 Budget it would cost Peachland taxpayers $129,940 annually (additional 3% tax increase),” he noted in an email to Castanet.

Creron says DCCs were waived for phase one of the project and that accounts for 1.6% of the current municipal tax increase of 4.24%.

As for the other main sticking point, the CAO says phase one parking is a problem and the district doesn’t want to replicate that with phase two.

“For the past 1.5 years for phase two, we have said to provide parking on site. So this issue still needs resolving between the parties. Their building design shows no parking on site and the developer wants to use 5th Street for phase two designated parking,” explains Creron.

However, residents of other seniors developments near 5th Street have raised concerns with phase two parking, because they too have asked for designated parking on 5th Street. Creron says that at this point district administration does not recommend using 5th Street for any designated parking.

Fielding believes the district is trying to negotiate more money from the province to offset the cost of waiving the DCCs.

A meeting with the Ministry of Housing was set for February 22, but was cancelled. It’s hoped the meeting can be rescheduled for the latter half of March or in early April.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking.

He says many people are wanting and waiting for Phase 2 and further delays are unacceptable.

Even if council gives the go ahead to the rezoning application, shovels probably wouldn’t be in the ground until the summer, more than a year after the Peachland Seniors Support Society filed the applications.

“To date, councillors have not been directly engaged in these issues or asked to consider abandoning the project in favour of a private development. However, it is a known ‘elephant in the room’ and one that has to be confronted,” says Fielding. “What is needed now is for councillors to step-up, insert themselves into the process, engage in problem solving, and see this project to an appropriate conclusion.

“We urge them to do that at the earliest opportunity.”

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