• Saturday , 4 February 2023

Opposition to the walkway expansion is because of the plans

As a resident of the 4000 block of Beach Avenue, I would like to clarify some of what I perceive to be community misconception regarding the proposed Beach Avenue Walkway extension. I have spoken with many of the residents in the 4000 and 4100 blocks of Beach Avenue. Let us be clear – residents, for the most part, are not opposed to the walkway extension but rather strongly opposed to Options A, B and C that have been offered.

If you consider the population of Peachland to be approximately 5,000, I believe it would be fair to say that this walkway, by observation over the last seven years, is used minimally during the winter. Usage increases somewhat during the spring/fall months. Perhaps on a very busy day possibly 100 people may walk/ride by our home.

The area is extremely well used only during the summer months. People fill the beach, sidewalks, existing walkway and parking spots.

This being said, here are some points to consider:

a) An independent consulting firm was hired to put a plan together for this extension. Clearly it appears they do not have a pulse on the activity of these two blocks of Beach Avenue but simply mirrored the existing walkway. The existing walkway from 13th Avenue into downtown Peachland is a business/residential area and it is appropriate to be more elaborate. The extension walkway is residential only and therefore a less elaborate walkway would be appropriate.

b) The beach itself – in the summer many residents/tourists arrive early in the morning to claim a spot in this undeveloped area choosing it over the developed walkway beach area. Surely there is a message here.

c) Parking – cars are parked bumper to bumper in non-designated parking spots on both sides of the street during the summer months. This allows many more available parking spots for tourists than the designated spots on the other side of 13th Street. More tourists equal more tourist dollars.

Regarding a comment printed in a letter to the editor that residents are concerned about losing sightlines, I would like to say that no one is expecting to “have it both ways.” We have paid for those sightlines in the cost of purchasing our homes and continue to pay for the sightlines in our property taxes each year. Our homes were purchased because of those sightlines. In the bioswale of the existing walkway, trees were planted staggering the existing beach trees. This pattern will eventually obscure any view.

You may not be aware that if Options A, B or C are approved, the district will be recalling three to five feet of property at the front of all homes to accommodate a new sidewalk on one side and walkway on the other. Landscaping will then have to be replaced. Some homes will lose most of what is now their existing front yards. How esthetically pleasing will this be? Envision a large improved road with a walkway on one side and sidewalk bordered by homes with boxed-in yards. All this cost and upheaval to basically accommodate a busy season that really only exists approximately two months of the year?

Let’s talk about costs. $2.3 million approximately to develop two blocks of residential area. It has been mentioned that funding will be covered under grants. In my many years of employment in economic development with the federal government, it has been my experience that only two-thirds of the project money is received by the applicant. How is the remaining amount being paid? Increased tax dollars? What about operation and maintenance expenses in perpetuity?

As a community we should be working together to meet the needs of all – residents of the affected area, those who would use the walkway and tourists.

It seems ridiculous to push through a plan “just in case funding may come available.” The plan should address the concerns of all. Based on the open houses and individual comments by Peachland residents to district and council, would it seem reasonable and fair to ask for an Option D or even E for everyone to consider or that a collaborative committee be created?

A simple, cost-effective option might be to move the road lines closer to the existing sidewalk and not include a bioswale in this plan. By doing this, parking on both sides could be saved and a simple walkway added along the beach providing a safe venue for the community and keeping some of the quaintness of this residential area intact.

Ted Worobetz, Peachland

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