It was only a matter of time before the authorities would get involved in the PeachTree Village controversy.
An amendment to the Official Community Plan was part of the agenda at Tuesday’s regular council meeting, and since it pertained to PeachTree Village, the Friends of Beach Avenue were out in full force.
So many of them filled the council chambers that the maximum capacity of 74 people was breached. The meeting couldn’t begin and Peachland Fire Chief Dennis Craig was called in to enforce the rules.
To give the public somewhere else to watch the meeting, a live stream was being televised in another room in the same building.
It took a while for Craig to shoo enough people out for the meeting to begin, but after CAO Elsie Lemke called the RCMP, an officer showed up and things started to move along.
“The situation outside was getting a little bit too confrontational,” Lemke said as to why she called the cops. “When a fire chief asks a crowd to leave higher than the occupant load and they don’t leave then it becomes a police matter.”
When asked why the District couldn’t turn a blind eye to the fire code and let the meeting run, Lemke said “it’s against fire regulations and it wouldn’t be safe.”
The Friends believe Lemke has persuaded some councillors to go against the will of the public.
“Who’s making the decisions, the CAO or the Mayor?” asked Friend of Beach Lloyd Sotas.
“But I was happy to notice that Ms. Lemke sort of shifted into the background towards the end of the meeting.”
Before the meeting was able to begin, Sotas encouraged PeachTree adversaries to remain in the room in hopes of forcing the meeting to adjourn.
But Lemke said an adjournment wasn’t in the cards.
“It was just a matter of waiting until we get a solution that was going to work for everybody,” she said.
The meeting ended with the first two readings of the amendment getting passed 5 – 0.
Coun. Mario Vucinovic was absent and Coun. Terry Condon (the only councillor who voted against PeachTree) abandoned the meeting when the item arose, as he wasn’t allowed to participate due to a conflict of interest. The conflict is from a $20 donation he made to the Friends, who are actively engaged in a lawsuit against the District.
Condon’s supporters were very vocal.
“Unbelievable. Terrible. Aww, booo!” and “Ugh!” were audible from the gallery.
But after the disappointment was expressed and Condon walked out, the crowd began clapping and cheering for him. Friend Allison Moore asked if she could give Condon his $20 back to undo the conflict.
During the public’s chance to speak at the end of the meeting, the rants of protesters had to be phrased as questions to fit the format.
Some people asked how much the OCP cost to create. They already knew the answer but wanted to see if council did too.
When a public hearing rolls around to amend the OCP to say “Encourage” instead of “Establish,” Friend Rob Taylor asked if council can still amend it even if the majority of residents voice opposition.
Coun. Mike Kent was unapologetic in telling Taylor the answer is yes – popularity is not the sole determining factor when councillors deem something to be in the best interest of the community or not.
However, “If you didn’t anticipate this large of a turnout for this big of an issue, it suggests you’re out of touch,” said one woman, who also asked, if the OCP is being positioned by the District as just a guideline, then why is the amendment even necessary?
“The vast majority of Peachlanders believes town councillors have by in large made up their minds,” Sotas said. “They say they’re going into the public hearing with an open mind, but of course they have to say that if they are to avoid any sort of damages from (PeachTree developer Gaetan) Royer.”
Royer was in attendance at the meeting.
The public was told that even with a three-storey maximum, PeachTree Village could legally be taller that what’s currently planned, because restriction on the number of storeys is not consistent with restrictions on height.
That was the meat-and-potatoes of this week’s council meeting, but there was a great appetizer in the morning during Committee of the Whole.
It was fire and brimstone from the public gallery.
“There will be a reckoning on election day! Shame on you all!”
PeachTree adversaries were not happy after Coun. Terry Condon was booted from the meeting during the amendment item.
Apparently he declared a conflict of interest during an in-camera meeting, preventing him from participating in discussion.
However, he wished to rescind his conflict of interest.
“You can only rescind it if you get legal advice,” Mayor Cindy Fortin said.
“I got legal advice,” said Condon.
“Your legal advice wasn’t correct,” Fortin said.
“Hahaha,” Condon laughed.
After a bit more back-and-forth, a comment was made that the discussion was inappropriate and then Fortin called a recess.
When the break was over, it was determined that Condon was not allowed to rescind his conflict of interest.
“It is not my intention to embarrass this council or bring damage to District of Peachland,” Condon said. “My interest is only to represent the residents of Peachland as best I can. If staying here means I’m going to jeopardize future decisions on their behalf then I will leave.”
Last week when reached by email, Condon told the View that he would be saving his comments on the matter for the council debate.