Not so fast, PeachTree Village.
Residents against the proposed development packed the Little Schoolhouse when they met up on Tuesday night.
The vast majority of attendees were in opposition. Concerns focused around the erosion of the quaintness of Peachland; insufficient parking; excessive height setting a bad precedent; not adhering to the OCP; negative effects on nearby properties; the desire to keep the area zoned R1; inadequate fire safety; and the timing of the public hearing, which was held during a local state of emergency.
“I read the charette report and the OCP over and over,” said Richard Smith, a PeachTree opponent and speaker at the meeting. “The height of the building is excessive according to the charette recommendations.”
Gaetan Royer, the man spearheading the project, also attended the meeting. He said he showed up so he could be held accountable, but wasn’t given the opportunity to because Lloyd Stinson Sotas, the chair of the meeting, refused him an opportunity to speak at the end of the night, despite some appetite from the audience to publicly question the developer.
Stinson Sotas spoke with Royer after the meeting was over, saying the reason he shut him down is because earlier in the process, opponents of the project weren’t given a fair opportunity to present their arguments.
In a press release issued Wednesday, PeachTree said the meeting was more of a political rally.
“PeachTree Village attended a meeting about their project, prepared to be held accountable and anticipating that they would be asked to answer questions,” reads the press release. “They were not offered that basic courtesy.”
Of all the anti-development efforts Royer has dealt with in his career, he said opposition to PeachTree has been the most misinformed.
The Beach Avenue property, which is owned by the developer, is between third and final reading to get rezoned and accommodate five storeys. Council has not been allowed to receive any new information after the public hearing closed on June 13.
Still, those at the meeting were encouraged to flood District staff and the Office of the Ombudsperson with letters challenging PeachTree’s compatibility with Peachland’s OCP.
Peachland’s director of planning Cory Gain said the public hearing was done prudently and the time for council to consider any new information has come and gone.
Although there was a local state of emergency toward the end of the public hearing, it didn’t pose a severe enough risk to disrupt the process, she said.
“Had there been evacuations it would have been a different story.”
Also, Gain said most of the “main players” from Tuesday’s meeting managed to share their input when the public hearing was active.
“The process unfolded the way it’s legislated to do so,” she said. “If council reconsidered every decision based on a few people’s dissatisfaction, we would never have any decisions made because there will always be people upset.”
Much of the case against PeachTree is based on a section of Peachland’s Official Community Plan stating that buildings along Beach Avenue should be no taller than three storeys, which PeachTree Village will be exceeding by two storeys.
Whether or not that part of the OCP is actually binding depends on who you ask.
“Rezoning bylaws have to be consistent with the OCP; the Peachtree rezoning bylaw is clearly illegal,” says Eric Hall, one of the main speakers at Tuesday’s meeting and a former councillor. “I would say there’s a bit of a disconnect (between council and the public) because we’ve allowed plans to come forward which clearly are not in sync with the community.”
Hall is referring to part 478 of B.C.’s Local Government Act, where section 2 states that “All bylaws enacted or works undertaken by a council, board or greater board, or by the trustees of an improvement district, after the adoption of an official community plan … must be consistent with the relevant plan.”
But Royer, who’s work has centred around municipal affairs for 35 years, says no rules are being broken.
“I don’t know whether he misunderstood what he was allegedly told by a lawyer or forgot some elements, but what Mr. Hall said was misleading,” he said.
And more recent than the OCP update was a municipal election in 2014, and “All the candidates who ran on the premise of downtown development were voted in,” said Patrick Van Minsel, a supporter of the project who attended the meeting to observe. “The majority of Peachlanders agreed with their standpoint and then gave them the mandate to follow through on those promises.”
PeachTree Village, which was first pitched to council in 2015, is planning to provide four retail units on the ground level, 7,000 square feet of office space to occupy the second floor, and 10 residential units on the top three floors.
According to peachtreevillage.ca, developers are hoping to break ground by the fall of 2017.