City of Penticton unanimously votes against zoning bylaw amendment on Naramata Bench development

City axes zoning request

Casey Richardson

UPDATED: 3:30 p.m.

City Council voted unanimously not to go forward with the first reading of the zoning amendment bylaw for 1050 Spiller Rd. – the controversial Naramata Bench development.

Although city staff went through a prepared detailed report on the development and community engagement plans, councillors decided the outcry of residents against the project was too great to ignore.

Coun. Katie Robinson was the first to voice her opposition to the project, saying that the proper zoning is as stands – country residential.

However, Coun. Campbell Watt moved that the city should go forward as staff had presented.

“We are not saying yes or no to the project, we’re saying yes or no to engagement,” he said. “I will always support as much public engagement and public hearing as we can.”

“I think I’d like to echo councillor Watt,” Coun. Frank Regehr said. “There’s also legitimate and real concern with some of the issues that are outstanding and some of the impact.”

Regehr pointed out that engagement would allow better understanding of the project, better understanding of the concerns of the community, and could present some solutions.

But, other councillors continued to voice their opinions that the project doesn't fit the area.

“I look at this application, and we live in a beautiful valley, in a beautiful part of the province, and I think a key to building a great city and great neighbourhood is to build with the natural beauty of the area,” Coun. Julius Bloomfield said. “We only get one chance to do this right.”

Bloomfield added that the Naramata Bench has value, and because of that, development and interest will become challenges with that success.

“That's a city styled subdivision in a country setting,” Bloomfield said.

Councillors also discussed the amount of time staff have put into the project, and although development will happen, they want it to be right.

“I really see this as an urban project that's trying to move out into the country,” Robinson said. “I think the developers need a clear message that this is not what our community is looking for.”

Mayor John Vassilaki agreed with the points Bloomfield and Robinson brought forward.

“I won’t be voting in favour (of the bylaw change)... Not because I don't believe in the process, but because I don’t believe the proponent should be spending more money and staff spending more money,” Vassilaki said.

“I have issues with the way this project stands... It's way too large for my standard for the area of Naramata Bench.”

Robinson added: “Under normal circumstances, I would like to see a very robust public hearing, but I’ve been listening to the public for two years and what I have been hearing now is loud and clear.”

Council voted unanimously to stick with the current country residential zoning.

ORIGINAL: 1:46 p.m.

An unplanned group of protesters gathered outside Penticton City Hall on Tuesday afternoon, wanting to make sure their voices were heard against the proposed Naramata Bench development.

City Council is set to hear the presentation from Canadian Horizons on their proposal for development and likely give the first reading to the zoning amendment bylaw No. 2021-05, which will change the land zoning from country residential housing to also allow for large-lot residential, different small lot residential and parks and recreation.

If Council gives the first reading to the zoning amendment bylaw on Tuesday, a community engagement process concerning the proposal would then follow.

“We wanted to make sure our viewpoint is very, very clear, that they made a few minor changes to the plan, but by no means something any of us here want to see happen,” John Bilodeau, a member of the Preserve Naramata Bench Society and a local farmer said.

“We’d like to see it squashed right away of course. But we understand that there’s a process involved and give everybody a chance to say their opinion, pros and cons and that's what we’re exercising here today.”

The proposed development on 1050 Spiller Road for the estimated 307 homes had recently released an updated plan for the development, where some residents responded that they were still opposed.

“We’re not happy about this,” Bilodeau added, pointing to the slight drop in houses, movement of houses away from the house and concerns over the environmental area.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki came out to speak with protestors before the city council meeting began, letting them know he’s listening to their concerns.

“He said he’s here to listen and we really appreciate that and he’s going to listen to all sides, he’s not tipping his hand,” Bilodeau said.

“But I feel very good about him at least coming out and talking to us today, acknowledging us.”

“Should council pass first reading, staff will follow-up by designing a community engagement process that balances the need to effectively gather feedback from a wide range of voices and perspectives while concurrently hosting accessible engagement opportunities during the current pandemic,” JoAnne Kleb, the City of Penticton’s Engagement Program Manager said in a previous press release.

Castanet will update this story as Penticton council moves through the afternoon’s agenda.

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