The Friends of Beach Avenue’s unstoppable force is bound to collide with the immovable object that is PeachTree Village.
Both sides are intensifying their campaigns.
The Friends held the Rally in the Alley last night at the Little Schoolhouse. Speakers were PeachTree adversaries Randey Brophy, Lloyd Sotas, Maggie Lovelock and former Mayor Keith Fielding. Over 100 supporters packed into the building and over $1,500 in cash donations were stuffed into a jar.
That money will support a lawsuit challenging the District’s decision to approve a development that doesn’t conform with the Official Community Plan.
In the other corner, PeachTree has launched its own offensive. Gaetan Royer, the man sowing the seeds of PeachTree, has accused Brophy of “using his leadership of the Friends of Beach Avenue Society and a Go Fund Me campaign for his personal gain.”
Royer recalled a discussion between him and Brophy during PeachTree’s March 9 open house. He claims that Brophy expressed interest in selling his Beach Avenue property to PeachTree, and Royer was initially interested because Brophy’s property is in Peachland’s Core Commercial area (between Highway 97 and 6th Street) – an appealing location for developers.
But upon learning that Brophy had constructed a new home on his lot after purchasing it in March 2014, Royer says he lost interest.
“I further explained that we would be most interested in properties with older houses because our goals would be to acquire properties for the land only and help revitalize the downtown core. It is routine practice for developers to purchase properties for their land value and avoid buying newer buildings. Mr. Brophy became irritated saying that he had just finished building a new house,” Royer said.
“I told Mr. Brophy that the OCP had long included a specific policy against re-investment in single family housing in the Core Commercial area. He became extremely upset saying that he would not have built a new house if he had known. I pointed out that this was not a hidden fact and that we actually quoted the District’s OCP on our comment form.”
Brophy remembers having a discussion with Royer on March 9, but the assertion that he regrets building him home and considered selling it to PeachTree is “absolute bullshit,” he says.
“Why would I build a home over $1 million in 2015 and retire here if I was going to sell my property to Gaetan Royer? It’s ridiculous.”
Brophy argues that his property will become much more valuable if PeachTree does go ahead – so if money were his motivation, he says he would be in favour of this development.
“We don’t need any money, especially not from Gaetan Royer.”
But Royer makes the case that Brophy’s own disregard towards Peachland’s OCP put him in a position to benefit by nearly $180,000 if PeachTree doesn’t go ahead.
By building his new home in 2015, Brophy reinvested in a single family residential dwelling within the Core Commercial area, which is discouraged in section 15.8 of the OCP.
When he bought the lot three-and-a-half years ago, it was worth $595,000. Since then, he demolished the old house, built the new structure and then saw his property value assessment rise to $829,000.
However, since the OCP says properties within the Core Commercial area are supposed to “support commercial and multiple family residential mixed use buildings,” Royer said Brophy’s recently-built single family dwelling would be worth no more than $650,000 to a builder.
“He now knows that anyone doing due diligence prior to purchasing his home will discover that it is destined to be surrounded by higher density use, as explicitly explained in the OCP,” Royer said.
Brophy said if and his wife weren’t allowed to build the home they had planned, they wouldn’t have purchased the property in the first place. They hired a contractor and were able to get a building permit with “no pushback” from the District.
“The District of Peachland had no problem with our plans before or after we purchased the property.”
According to Brophy, Royer’s accusation is an “absolute lie” designed to “muddy the waters.”
Brophy maintains that his property will be worth more if PeachTree is built because it will increase the demand for single family homes in the downtown core.
But no matter how much the value of his property may increase, Brophy says he has “no intention to sell.
“It’s completely inaccuracy to say I’m doing this for financial reasons.”
Brophy says he and his wife just want to live out the rest of their days in Peachland while retaining the character of their neighbourhood, as defined in the OCP.
“Trying to smear me is a lot like building right to your neighbours lot line,” Brophy said. “It just isn’t neighbourly.”
But it will be a judge that decides the fate of PeachTree, not the reputations of individuals.
Friend of Beach Avenue Eric Hall has no doubt that as it stands, a judge will rule in favour of the Friends. However, he fears the District is going to hastily “update” the OCP in order for it to bode with PeachTree, just in time for court.
Should that happen, and PeachTree’s adversaries participate in an OCP update by expressing their dismay towards five storeys on Beach Avenue, “council can just ignore them and approve it.”
Hall believes the District will do whatever it takes to see PeachTree get built.
“Elsie (Lemke, District CAO) isn’t going to lose a lawsuit,” Hall said. “It would be huge black eye.”
He suspects an OCP revision process to begin in February or March.
When Lemke was asked if the District might actually do that, she said it wouldn’t be very smart for her to make a comment while the lawsuit is pending.
Formal response from Randey Brophy:
Mr. Royer has chosen to question my motivations. Mr. Royer finds it easier to attack the messenger (me) than the message (no five storey buildings along Beach Avenue). Mr. Royer’s actions are understandable in that the message is a hard target to attack. But, let me be clear; we have absolutely no regrets about moving to Peachland or about building our home on Beach Avenue. We have never made any attempt to sell our house to Mr. Royer’s out-of-town development company or to anyone else. Everyone in Peachland that knows us, knows that is the case. My wife and I came to Peachland to make a home, not a profit. That is what distinguishes us from an out-of-town developer like Mr. Royer. Mr. Royer has come to Peachland to make a profit, not a home. Mr. Royer’s statement that a builder (such as himself) values a residence in our community based on the profit that he could make on its redevelopment is telling. When I walk along Beach Avenue, I do not think about how much money I would make if only I could tear down everyone’s home.
I do not resent Mr. Royer for his focus on his profits, though his tactics may leave something to be desired. My real problem is with City Hall. A very significant amount of time, energy and money was spent mapping out a sustainable and cohesive vision of our community as it evolves over time. The residents of Peachland were and remain committed to the visions expressed in the OCP, the Downtown Plan and the Neighbourhood Plan. It is so frustrating that our City Council does not share that commitment. Instead, City Council is looking to an out-of-town developer and the out-of-town developer’s planner to tell Council what our City should look like. Wake up, Council; out-of-town developers have no interest in the long-term success of our community; out-of-town developers do not intend to stick around to see how it all turns out. They come, they buy, they tear down, they build, they sell, then they leave. Buying full page ads in the local paper along the way to preempt space for unfavourable comment or to counteract rallies against the nature of their proposal. It is up to our Council, with guidance from the OCP, the Downtown Plan, and the Neighbourhood Plan to ensure the profit motivations of out-of-town developers do not come before the best interests of our community. The residents of Peachland have entrusted Council not to let Beach Avenue turn into a row of five storey buildings. That goes against so much, almost everything, that is envisioned for our community. Before Council at the behest of this out-of-town developer rips up the OCP, the Downtown Plan, and the Neighbourhood Plan, perhaps they should ask us, the residents who live here and who will be voting next fall.