Among the 80-or-so people who attended Tuesday’s public hearing to rezone Turner Properties, the message was overwhelmingly one-sided: don’t do it.
Many of the speakers stated they are generally in favour of development, but each had a caveat for why they were opposed to the 34-lot subdivision that’s being proposed.
Mayor Cindy Fortin asked the audience to refrain from shouting cheers and jeers on numerous occasions.
Aside from Ernie Herd, who said “We’re screaming for a type of housing that maybe the average working people can afford” in support of the subdivision – members of the public spent the meeting trying to advise council to deny the rezoning application.
“Do we have to rezone?” asked Taryn Skalbania, “Is it necessary?”
Michele Bolton can’t understand why council, in the year 2006, didn’t purchase Turner Properties when the opportunity presented itself.
“Why wouldn’t you want to purchase this land?” she said. “You could rename it Fortin Park for all I care.”
Kathy Pennich, who’s lived on a property adjacent to Turner Properties for the past 25 years, said the project will see seven new houses built along her property line.
“My privacy is completely robbed,” she said. “It’s overkill – it’s too much.”
Megan Leckie, who operates a home-based daycare on Turner Avenue, believes the street won’t be as safe with an increase in traffic that will come with a new subdivision.
Chris Leckie doesn’t want to lose the green space that the public currently has access to at Turner.
“When we lose that, where do we gain it elsewhere?” he wants to know. “Peachland seems to be very sparse in its park space.”
Hilda Coen commented that residential intensive zoning, which the proposed subdivision requires, will not fit within neighbourhood’s character and form. That idea was echoed by many other residents.
If the project goes ahead, Sam Theriault will be worried about sending her children to school each day because heavy machinery will be operating between their home and the bus stop.
“There’s a 90-degree blind corner, a steep grade and no other safe option – how will they safely get to and from their bus stop?” Theriault asked.
Lloyd Sotas thanked the developers for allowing the community to use Turner Properties as a park at a nominal fee for so many years, but changing the Official Community Plan so that it bodes with the project is too big of a concession to appease one group of investors, he said.
“We’re making wholesale changes to the OCP for one development,” he said. “These changes will affect all of Peachland.”
Eric Hall said in his observation, Peachland’s planning department has never recommended that council reject any development, unlike other municipalities. He wants to see council look into the possibility of a land swap and explore more options.
“It’s a safe, accessible, well-used park by young families,” said Hall. “Saying no doesn’t mean we’re rejecting it, it means we’re taking a better look. Maybe the next council will be able to find the money … Try harder to save this park. It’s well worth saving.”
One of the owners of Turner Properties, Doug Mulholland, jokingly described himself as “one of the nasty out-of-town developers.”
If Turner Properties wasn’t purchased by the current group of investors, it would have been sold to another private developer.
Mulholland said the subdivision “Seems to be able to integrate with the larger lot neighbourhoods if given the chance.”
He said the neighbourhood has been designed with young families and older people who are downsizing.
“As soon as we receive approval and get engineering, we will start,” Mulholland said. “All owners are in agreement we will move as fast as possible in terms of making progress.”
Ed Grifone, a planner with QTC Consultants, said Turner is one of the more developable pieces of private property in Peachland and “We have to look at this very sensitively,” he said. After exploring several options, the current proposal is a concept that “We thought would resonate with all the needs that were important to the community.”
The project is supported by the Peachland Chamber of Commerce but no members chimed in at the public hearing.
Third reading to approve the rezoning application was on the agenda at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, but a motion passed unanimously to defer the decision until the Sept. 19 meeting.