• Thursday , 1 December 2022

Archaic zoning bylaw has project on pause: proponent

“Highly unusual” requirements attached to a commercial building proposed for Peachland’s waterfront downtown have set it up for failure, the proponent warns.

Peachland Chamber of Commerce president Dave Collins circulated a letter to member businesses Tuesday calling attention to a letter written by CityState Creative Urban Solutions president and CEO Gaeton Royer that warns a significant development proposed for the corner of Beach and 4th is at risk of evaporating.

“Again with a proposed downtown project, the developer is being asked to change the size of the building and contribute a substantial amount of funds (most would agree unreasonable relative to the size of the project) for water and parking upgrades,” Collins wrote. “These requirements will make the construction of the project [not viable] both practically and economically.”

Collins wrote that after 20 years in Peachland Royer’s complaints do not come as a surprise. Nevertheless, he is trying to create a positive out of the situation.

The chamber plans to host a roundtable for developers in August. Collins said they want to let developers express their concerns, take the feedback and formulate some recommendations for district council on how to improve the situation.

James Kay, chief operating officer of New Monaco, “applauds” the chamber for doing so.

“Every community benefits from hearing from their clientele.”

He continued: “There are approaches and tools that communities can use to successfully attract, incent and launch development. “We will be participating and I know many local developers eager to share their feedback and suggestions towards constructive and progressive solutions.”

An email sent to Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin and councillors was not immediately responded to. An auto-reply from Fortin’s account indicated she is on vacation until Aug. 2.

Councillor Keith Thom said via email Tuesday night he supports the project.

“It will add some more character to our downtown sector,” he wrote. “I believe this project will happen and have been in communication with the developer on several occasions.”

The proposed site for Peach Tree Village as it is called is formed by 5760 and 5766 Beach Avenue, which the company bought two years ago. The company’s website outlines a vision of a four-floor professional building with commercial space on the ground level, office suites on the second and 10 or 11 view condos on three and four, with the fourth floor stepped back to reveal open air patio space on the third.

The CityState building is not listed in the district planning office’s current projects. In his letter to property owners in the Peachland core commercial area, addressed to “neighbours,” Royer asks those owners to attend the next open house related to the district’s new zoning bylaw on Aug. 9 and outlines some of the “obstacles” faced by the company.

“Before the July 12 council meeting, we asked for changes to setbacks that would have reduced the buildable area of all downtown properties,” he wrote. “We also asked council to change a setback that would have sterilized 20 per cent of an owner’s property on a 50-foot lot.

“Why is this important? When you plan a third and fourth floor in a downtown building, you need to divide the cost of elevators, lobbies, fire protection, etc. among the suites you build. Reduce the buildable area below a certain number of units and you don’t have a viable project anymore.”

The “show stopper,” though, is water.

“We are told our small project requires us to upgrade (700 metres) of water line, including off-site work in the Minto/Somerset area, far from our site,” Royer continued. “Our entire team of professional engineers and architects found this request to be highly unusual. If the first developer to implement the Beach Avenue Neighbourhood Plan has to pay over $450,000 for resolving a long-standing water supply problem in the downtown core for the benefit of all future developers, then it is clearly in our interest to wait until someone else moves in first.”

Royer told the View Tuesday the $9 million building would bring an additional $600,000 in tax revenue to the district. He said Peachland councillors have been nothing but receptive, responsive and enthusiastic, but the hoops placed in front of the project by the district’s zoning bylaw dampen development throughout the downtown core, from the museum to 6th Street.

“In the short term, this is about all the other property owners in the downtown area,” he said. “The Beach Avenue neighbourhood plan is a great vision and it’s well-written, but it falls apart when it comes to the zoning bylaw. It needs to be modernized to match the vision.”

Kay said when he was designing the last master planned community in Peachland, there were significant off-site costs connected to the new 13th Street/Ponderosa/97 intersection. He added that as an engineer, he understands a building can’t go ahead unless it can be serviced with sufficient volume and pressure of water for fire suppression and domestic use.

“New Monaco is looking at having to afford and construct $50 million worth of infrastructure, and significant portions of these investments are in offsite works,” he said. “New Monaco is working closely with district staff to utilize the various cost-sharing and cost-recovery tools available to developers so that when we have to build infrastructure up-front, we have a chance of recovering some of that investment. This is often the best mechanism to keep taxes low, have development pay its fair share, yet allow the first developer the opportunity to be repaid.”

In his message, Collins said that Peachland voters “spoke loudly” in the last election, lamenting the failed TNI downtown project and a lack of downtown development in general.

“Many new councillors were elected with a mandate to support downtown development as part of their election platform,” he wrote. “A reminder of that pledge is in order.”

The chamber anticipates good attendance at the developers’ meeting.

“So far there is not one developer who is missing that meeting,” Collins wrote. “We will prepare a report for council on our findings of that discussion and suggest recommendations to improve the experience of developers, streamline the development process and reset priorities.”

Royer, a former Canadian Peacekeeper, military engineer and city manager, said he and his co-proponent, restauranteur Fred Soofi, want to move their families into two of the condos they plan to build, and they added the second-floor offices, which offer a much lower return on investment, purely to address a dearth of professional commercial space in the town.

“There is a significant risk that the amount of office space we propose to provide will not be absorbed as quickly as lakefront residential units,” he wrote to council in March of this year. “In addition, while there are strata office units in other communities, this will be a new form of commercial space in Peachland. We therefore feel that taking this business risk is a significant concession which we are making primarily to help council achieve its goal of providing more off-season daytime workers and local-serving professionals in the core commercial area.”

The company’s first letter to council more than a year earlier indicated the proponents want to seen as “respectful and compliant investors.

“We wish for our families to be accepted as long-term contributors to the vitality of your community.”

Craig Gilbert

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