From the Mayor’s Desk: Setting the record straight on proposal for Beach and 4th

 

Editor’s note: It was the View that incorporated the phrases “archaic” and “risk of evaporating” in the front-page news article Mayor Fortin refers to. These exact words were never used by Mr. Collins or Mr. Royer but were consistent with the messaging of their respective statements.

Hello Peachlanders!

I hope you are enjoying the wonderful summer sunshine. We couldn’t live in a more beautiful place!

I’d like to begin by making a few comments on recent events. I read with dismay and disappointment the comments of a developer, and of our local Chamber president, in the July 29 edition of the Peachland View. The headline was: “Archaic zoning bylaw has project on pause: proponent.”

This came as a surprise, as Council has been nothing but supportive of Mr. Royer’s development project, as far back as December of 2014, the evening of the new Council’s inauguration, when out of the blue he interrupted the special post-inaugural celebrations to present his concept plans. His project looked very promising.

Since that time, I, along with the rest of Council and staff, have had numerous discussions with the Royers, and yet weeks turned to months, then over a year and longer, with no formal application for the project submitted by them.

Despite that, I even agreed to the unusual step of allowing them do a pre-application presentation to Council, even if just for more confirmation that Council was feeling very positive about his proposal. But Council can only do so much. We can not make any formal decisions without having something solid before us to consider, or we will just be staring at a blank page.

Mr. Royer and his business partner have only recently submitted an application, and we look forward to this project moving ahead.

To address the “archaic zoning bylaw” comment, to her credit our Director of Planning and her staff have been working non-stop on updating our zoning bylaw. But what Mr. Royer wants is for Council to do away with the required setbacks to Beach Avenue commercial buildings. Council even deferred Second Reading of the new bylaw until we had more time to consider this one particular section.

As it reads now, there does not need to be any setbacks for the first and second floors of commercial buildings along the Beach Avenue downtown, meaning that the front yard, rear yard, interior and exteriors sides can have zero (0) setbacks, and can be built right up to the lot lines. However, any storeys above that, do require some setbacks, and for good reason.

Picture this for a moment: If you don’t have any setbacks and you build right up to the very edges of your property line, you could potentially end up with big, square monster buildings along Beach Ave in the downtown core. Big square or block-length buildings with no break up in design.

Mr. Royer talked about having these setbacks “sterilize” a portion of the upper floors of his buildings by taking away space, when in fact I’m of the strong opinion that building monstrous buildings with no setbacks would sterilize the beauty of our downtown core. Is that what the public wants? A massive wall of buildings? Personally, I could not do that to Peachland.

So, this issue came back to Council at our last meeting, and the second reading of the new bylaw passed, without removing the required setbacks. It will now be going to a public hearing before third reading and final adoption.

I should note that even with the required setbacks in the bylaw, at any time Mr. Royer, or any developer for that matter, has the option of coming to Council with their specific project and requesting a variance to the setbacks. It is much better to consider variances to individual projects than to approve a blanket bylaw policy that required no setbacks at all.

Council and staff, and the Peachland Economic Development Committee, have also worked on offering incentives, such as the Downtown Revitalization Tax Exemption. Should we do more? It is important to support development, but any financial incentives we allow will come straight off the back of the taxpayer. Should taxpayers pay for a new developer’s water supply and hook ups? What about parking? Parking in the downtown core is tight, and therefore any new development in the area has to consider and contribute to the parking situation. Or should we raise taxes to pay for it?

I believe a positive attitude in working with developers is critical, but proponents of these projects also have to carry their responsibilities.

If Mr. Royer’s project is at “risk of evaporating” it is not because Council and staff haven’t done their best to be supportive. The onus now lies with the developer.

And lastly, I don’t believe that the negative rhetoric by our Chamber of Commerce president (who is also a local realtor) does anything positive for Peachland, especially when only saying one-sided, spun facts. Making comments that Councillors need to be reminded on their (campaign) pledge was a misguided, ill-informed and inappropriate comment. If Mr. Collins spent any length of time at all at Council meetings, he would know more about all the development projects on the go, and that this Council has been very proactive in this regard.

Currently, on the books, we have the Princess Street development, Huston Road, Clarence Road, Coldham, Ponderosa, New Monaco, and the biggest one of all at this time…the seniors housing development.

I think it’s wonderful that the Chamber has finally taken some initiative, and is holding a developer roundtable. I look forward to the results, and hope that same initiative will carry on for the benefit of their business members who pay a healthy sum for their Chamber memberships.

For the love of Peachland…

Best regards,

Mayor Cindy Fortin

Mayor Cindy Fortin
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