District of Summerland mayor and staff were in front of a hostile crowd Thursday evening at the Centre Stage Theatre.
Opponents of a proposed 380-unit seniors development used the town hall meeting to grill the district over the $125M project. About 250 people filled the theatre, taking turns to voice concerns that mainly centred around traffic and the project's impact on the groundwater that feeds the local hatchery.
“I think it’s absolutely unbelievable that you can even begin to entertain running that volume of traffic down a road that services 13 houses and 50 cars a day,” said one speaker, claiming traffic on his road would increase forty-fold.
Everyone that took the microphone was deeply opposed the to project, but Castanet spoke with some at the meeting who were in favour of the plan, but were not willing to provide their names or speak in front of the crowd.
“I’ve lived in Summerland for nine years and just seen it slowly decline, we need something like this to provide some jobs and maybe attract some young people,” one man said outside the theatre, referring to the 75-100 permanent jobs that comes with the facility.
Mayor Peter Waterman said the project could bring upwards of $400,000 in property tax revenue to the district, which has been economically stagnant.
He took flak on stage for an apparent perception that the development has already been approved, something he emphasized is far from the truth, “we have not made a decision.”
“When you have a small town with very little economic activity, certainly when a big project comes along, I think it's reasonable to seem that you might be a bit excited.” Waterman said
“But I think on balance, we have to look very carefully as all the ramifications that a development like this has on the community.”
At least another half dozen people at the meeting never got the chance to speak, meaning another town hall is possible. Summerland council will be meeting on Monday to discuss the next steps.
Waterman said it’s likely they will be requesting further information from the developer and trying to get answers to the questions and concerns raised on Thursday night. A formal public hearing on the matter has been postponed, until the district can gather more information.
However, the groups opposing the project are organized and growing.
The newly formed “Summerlanders for Sensible Development Group” has launched a full website, and presented the district with a petition of at least 960 people opposed to the plan.
“It was all questions about our environment, about our Summerland, our fishery and there are a lot of concerns - I think council should put it off their agenda right away,” Jos Dronkers said following the meeting.