A controversial move by Peachland district council to “clarify” its Official Community Plan, as it relates to two Beach Avenue properties where a developer wants to build a five-storey building, drew a large crowd Tuesday night.
And the crowd, estimated at over 100—many of whom oppose plans for the PeachTree Village development—were unhappy with both council’s plan to change the wording of the OCP and to hold the meeting in council chambers instead of a larger room.
“To hold it in a room that accommodates so few people was ridiculous,” said Randy Brophey of the Friends of Beach Avenue.
He said his group does not argue with the council’s right to change the OCP but it is opposed to the development in question.
Opponents of the PeachTree Village development do not want to see buildings as tall as five storeys on the district’s lakeshore. The group has launched legal action to try and stop development and claims large public opposition is not being listened to by council. It says a 900-name petition was ignored.
But Mayor Cindy Fortin said she believes the opponents are a vocal minority. She said she has had many people in the district tell her they want to see the development go ahead because there has not been any major development in the downtown core in 30 years.
The Friends of Beach Avenue’s petition to the B.C. Supreme Court is based on what the group calls the OCP’s “very strong language” that it says states buildings should be no higher than three-stories on Beach Avenue.
“The main thing is we want to keep Peachland as a calm, quiet town,” said association director Lloyd Sotas.
“We don’t appreciate the change of the OCP in this willy-nilly manner to allow the PeachTree development to go ahead. This is being done in a manner that we don’t really understand why. We don’t know why they are doing this so quickly without public input.”
He added concerns about the development include the availability of parking, as well as the Peachland Fire Department’s lack of a ladder truck to access a five-storey buildings in the case of fire.
According to Peachland chief administrative officer Elsie Lemke, the OCP is a “clarification” to make sure the reference to three storey buildings on Beach Avenue is a guideline, not a regulation.
The district is in the process of re-writing its OCP, a large task that will not be complete until later this year.
Lemke said the public will have an opportunity to address council’s planned wording change for the two properties in question at a public hearing that will take place Jan. 30. That meeting will take place in the gymnasium of the Peachland Community Centre.
As for Tuesday night’s council meeting and the large crowd it attracted, Lemke said district staff called the police in when the fire chief ruled the council chamber was over its legal occupancy capacity. Fortin said she asked several times for volunteers in the standing room-only crowd to move into an adjoining room with a live video feed but no one agreed.
Also during the meeting, veteran Coun. Terry Condon, who had given $20 to the Friends of Beach Avenue to help support its legal fight against the district, was ruled in a conflict of interest and had to remove himself from discussion on the proposed development.
Fortin said the district sought legal advice on Condon’s conflict of interest.
But Brophey called the move to exclude Condon a “bullying tactic” by the mayor.