• Friday , 27 January 2023

New council has cost concerns with seniors housing project

An open house held by the PSSS offered residents an update on the next phase of seniors housing project. Photo Joanne Layh

Joanne Layh

Phase two of the Peachland seniors housing project could be in jeopardy, if initial reluctance by the new council to fund the project is any indication.

In June 2021 the Peachland Seniors’ Support Society (PSSS) proposal to build a second phase of the Residences on 6th was approved under the BC Housing Community Housing Fund. The PSSS applied to the municipality for rezoning last May and recently held an open house to provide the community with an update on the project. 

Phase two is proposed to have 73 units located just south of phase one, on four lots where the Peachland Wellness Centre, Peachland Food Bank and the Peachland Community Policing office currently sit. 

If all goes as planned, the society is aiming for a development permit in early 2023, followed by other permitting, tendering, lease agreements, BC Housing approval, and an estimated 18 months of construction leading to a 2024/25 target move-in date for residents.

At the open house event PSSS president Keith Fielding told the View they’re keen to get on with it but are currently in waiting mode until the planning department has a zoning bylaw prepared for council to give first and second reading. 

“We have more than 90 people on the waiting list for phase one. So, a facility like this is really needed and there are people in the meantime having to leave Peachland because they can’t find the kind of accommodation they need,” said Fielding.

But if members of the society were looking for signs of continued council support, they didn’t find much of it at a committee presentation the following Tuesday, when a PSSS consultant, CitySpaces manager of development Spencer Andres, led a discussion about the status of the $30 million project.

The society faced some tough questions from several members of council, particularly about the cost impact the project will have on Peachland taxpayers.

Mayor Patrick Van Minsel said the municipality gave up over $700,000 in planning fees and development cost charges (DCCs) for phase one and estimated planning costs and development cost charges for this phase of the project to be over $1 million. He noted the District of Peachland agreed to pay the regional district DCCs of about $150,000 for phase one and are expected to pay around $200,000 to the regional district for phase two, in addition to waiving at least $140,000 in community amenity contributions.

He also noted these costs do not include land value that the district is expected to lease for $1 for 60 years.

“What would be the impact to the project if we didn’t waive all DCCs and community amenity contributions in phase two, of approximately $1.5 million?” asked Van Minsel.

“I think the short answer is the project would collapse,” answered Fielding. 

The society heard several questions from Coun. Alena Glasman, including concerns about the accuracy of the estimated DCCs and land assessment, suggesting the contributions would be higher than estimated.

“I’m just wondering if that $2.1 million is accurate with today’s market,” said Glasman. “I personally do not believe it is.”

“I do know the market value of that land assembly is at least $3 million and if you got an appraiser they’d easily peg it at $3 million but more likely $3.5 or something like that. I know that from recent sales of lots together in Peachland,” said Coun. Dave Collins, who is also a local real estate agent.

While he said there is no argument that more seniors’ housing is needed, Collins questioned if this project is the right way to provide it.

“Where I am and what I am wrestling with is we are as a district being asked to give up a chunk of land, DCCs, future tax base, pay the regional district their share of DCCs, so that’s a burden on our taxpayer, and I’m trying to wrestle with what we get out of it in terms of housing for Peachlanders,” said Collins. “The question is does it make sense to partner with BC Housing to provide more senior housing versus what the private sector might offer in terms of building 75 units and what that would look like stipulated as a rental building?”

Coun. Terry Condon suggested the mayor ask the regional district board if they’d be willing to waive their DCCs.

Van Minsel said he’s already spoken to his regional board colleagues and they’re not considering waiving DCCs but in an in-camera meeting later that morning, council passed the following resolution:

“That the mayor formally request the Regional District of the Central Okanagan and BC Housing to pay development cost charges, DCCs and other fees for the Peachland Seniors Support Society  Phase two housing project, given that this project supports the Regional District of the Central Okanagan housing strategy, and would provide housing for regional district residents, and that BC Housing has historically paid DCCs for projects of this nature.”

The resolution was brought into the public domain at the evening council meeting and the matter is expected to come before the regional board at their Jan. 19 meeting.

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