Learning about plans for a new fire hall, city hall and other infrastructure projects goes down better with free burgers and hotdogs.
Some 300-400 people accepted Peachland council’s invitation to attend an open house and barbecue Thursday at the community centre. The event features free food, children’s activities, and information tables staffed by various municipal departments and other agencies, including the regional district and library system.
After most people were fed, Mayor Patrick Van Minsel led a detailed presentation inside the hall on imminent and longer-term plans council will be addressing.
The new fire hall and city hall tie into plans to freshen up downtown, he said. They would be moved away from their prime downtown locations.
Van Minsel said council will launch a downtown task force and he invited people to join.
“If you have any skill set that can help us, please help us,” he said.
Previous downtown plans will help with the process, said administrator Joe Creron.
“We’ve had quite a few downtown plans in the past and we’re still going to use them, but they were at the 30,000-foot stage,” he said.
Peachland voters have already approved funding a new protective services building. A new municipal hall would come after that.
Peachland’s municipal hall is on Beach Avenue at the corner of 3rd Street. That’s a prime location that might be better used for something else, Van Minsel and Creron told the crowd.
“You don’t need a city hall on Beach Avenue,” said Creron, a longtime top City of Kelowna staffer who sometimes mistakenly calls Peachland’s main street Bernard Avenue.
“You should put something there that’s more value to the community, that brings vibrancy.”
Creron said the municipality may explore making a deal with developer to get a new town hall built.
The city has the municipal office and parking area behind it that might be good bargaining chips, he explained later.
A joint-use project is something that can be considered, Creron said.
“It can be a multi-use development. It doesn’t have to be just a city hall. It could maybe have residential above. It could maybe have commercial on the bottom,” he said after the meeting.
“We will move into the back,” said Van Minsel, after describing the million-dollar view from his office.
But first comes the fire hall, or officially, the protective services building.
“We need to get the fire department out of the downtown,” Fire Chief Dennis Craig said. “Our response times are significantly impacted by our members trying to get to the fire hall.”
The hall is currently located on 3rd Street.
Peachlanders voted last fall to borrow $17.5 million to build a new hall at municipally owned property on the corner of San Clemente Avenue and 13th Street.
Creron said later planning for the building is in the early stages.
Van Minsel told the crowd Peachland is exploring ways to reduce the cost to taxpayers, such as landing a few tenants.
Council is close to completing a comprehensive rezoning plan for Beach Avenue that includes limiting building height on the street to three storeys. Approval is expected at the June 13 council meeting.
“So within eight months, this council has kept its biggest promise to you,” said Van Minsel to applause.
The mayor and city staffers ran through a series of other infrastructure projects under way, including water, beach and park improvements.
Adding more housing and diversifying the population downtown were also cited.
A development proposed for the old Ponderosa golf course site on Pincushion Mountain would provide the municipality with $2.8 million for a fund to develop affordable housing when completed, the crowd heard.
Peachland also recently received $2.7 million from the provincial Growing Communities fund, which it is banking for now.
The municipality will apply this summer for a grant from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund, which offers funding for housing projects, particularly climate-friendly ones.
The mayor said a grant to expand Peachland’s sewer system was turned down - it had more applications than it could approve. Peachland still has 1,400 homes not on sewer.
“In this time and age, it’s not acceptable, he said, telling the crowd he has learned of some alternative ways to pay for sewer hookups and will be looking further into those.