It was the largest PeachTree crowd to date with more than 300 people filling the Community Centre gym, but the public’s behaviour wasn’t as rowdy as the two meetings prior.
Tuesday’s public hearing was about amending the Official Community Plan to say that PeachTree can be five storeys tall instead of three. The small detail has created significant tension between the District and the Friends of Beach Avenue. The latter group has filed a lawsuit against the former based on that wording.
The OCP currently directs council to “establish” a maximum height of two to three storeys where PeachTree wants to go. Staff has recommended the word be changed to “encourage.” By using hazier language, the District might have an easier time “avoiding significant legal costs,” according to a staff report.
The hearing was an obligatory step to bring an amendment into law.
Of the 75 who spoke at Tuesday’s public hearing, 66 (88 per cent) were against the proposed amendment. Among the written submissions that were received, 57 per cent were opposed. There were 194 written correspondences in total.
Mayor Cindy Fortin said there was information presented at Tuesday’s public hearing that was new to her, and she said she’ll have to digest it before voting on the matter at the next council meeting.
“We need to progress, we can’t stay in the past,” said Fortin. “I know that’s really difficult for some people but that’s what we were told in the last election.”
“We can go to Kelowna if we want five-storey buildings,” Ardis Berney said at the hearing.
Also speaking against the development was Nathan Kunkel. He doesn’t think PeachTree fits in with Peachland’s “small-town feel,” saying there are plenty of other places in the District where growth can occur, and “five stories near the beach isn’t good.”
Kunkel called PeachTree’s business model into question, asking proponent Gaetan Royer why he can’t turn a profit without violating a bylaw that he ought to have known about when purchasing the land.
“Where was your cost analysis?”
Just look at how tall the new five-storey senior’s housing development is going to be, Carol White said to the audience, “but imagine it on Beach.”
Trevor Neyedli was one of the nine who spoke favour of five storeys, saying it will benefit the young people of Peachland.
Also speaking in favour of five storeys was Zoe Royer, Gaetan’s wife. She downplayed how wealthy they are, saying they have plans of spending their retirement in Peachland with their family.
Trevor Shephard, who’s not normally pro-development, said he supports PeachTree because it’s a “green development.” By densifying the downtown core, it reduces the need for urban sprawl, he said.
Some Peachlanders, like Ernie Hurd, were upset about by how hastily the OCP is being amended. In 2010, Hurd participated in drafting the Charette process, and feels like the work of that committee is being disregarded.
Sara Eyjolfson spoke in support of five storeys. She told council that it might look a little out of place in the beginning, but if PeachTree is what Peachland needs then make it happen.
Eyjolfson also believes the issue of adequate parking spaces will work itself out. That caused members of the audience to chuckle and heckle her.
“The attitude in this town is just … you need development in this town if you want to progress,” she said in frustration.
Jeff Davies, who’s against the amendment, feels like the public’s voice isn’t being heard. While addressing council, he asked the room for a show of hands of who’s in support and who’s against the project. An overwhelming majority rose their hands to signal disapproval.
“You can’t unscramble an egg,” he said.
Many PeachTree opponents reminded council how there happens to be a municipal election coming up later this year, and made predictions that councillors who support the development will face weaker odds of reelection.
Some opponents brought up safety concerns, wondering how people on the fifth floor will be rescued in the event of a fire, as the Peachland Fire Dept. cannot reach that high.
Audrey Rodenbush, who supports the development, asked the opponents “who’s going to put out a potential fire on the fifth storey of the new senior’s housing development.”
But that was just facetious rhetoric. It’s already been mentioned several times that an agreement is in place with the West Kelowna Fire Dept., and they’ll assist with their taller ladder in an emergency.
Final reading will take place at the next regular council meeting, Feb. 13.
New rules have been implemented as a result of two council meetings ago, when the room was exceeding fire code capacity and people were slow to move. From now on, only 57 members of the public will be allowed into council chambers during meetings. There will be somebody to guard the door on nights that are expected to fill up.