The City of Penticton mused at the idea of allowing development along Skaha Lake earlier this week, before it was stonewalled by dozens of residents who made a nearly-unanimous plea to scrap the idea.
Amid a 6.5 hour-long meeting at City Hall on April 7, a public hearing was held to discuss amending the designation of nine waterfront properties from parks and recreation into medium density residential, which would have abandoned 25-year-old plans to take over the beachfront properties. The public hearing left no room for doubt regarding the community’s preference, and council unanimously voted to abandon the motion, which was put forward by city staff.
“I submit that the subject land has greater long-term value as a community amenity rather than as a multiple family dwelling area,” resident Dennis O’Gorman said at the hearing. “(Skaha Lake properties) should be seen and considered as a strategic resource, which the city should actually enhance and leverage as part of its economic development strategy.”
No matter how long it takes, O’Gorman said that Penticton’s long term objective should be to acquire all nine properties.
During an address by Jake Kimberley, who lives on Lakeshore Blvd., he asked council where the idea to rezone came from.
Mayor Jakubeit reminded Kimberley that the public hearing wasn’t an opportunity debate, but Kimberley’s persistence and the reaction of a displeased audience managed to garner a reply.
“Through the staff it came forward, but it also came from one of the residents,” Jakubeit said.
Blake Laven, Penticton’s planning manager, took over saying that the idea spawned after the lease of a city-owned property was due for renegotiation.
“Given that no other properties have been purchased along there, I think that the decision was made to take it out to the public to see what the appetite was for redesignating these properties,” he said. “But I think it’s pretty clear that we’re getting a sense of what the public thinks about that idea.”
The parks and recreation land is a crucial part of council’s long-term strategic planning, Kimberley said.
“We need more beach. You cannot grow this 34,000 population we have now to 50,000, and expect them to use the same amenities as now.”
Resident Glenn Simpler opposed the idea, but was especially upset by the fast pace of the process.
“Do you know how disappointing it was for me today to find you have already decided you are going to have second and third reading tonight and approval.”
Had a more drawn out process been planned, council “probably wouldn’t have had quite the amount of tension that was certainly felt outside,” he said.
Most cities only address the second and third readings in a single meeting for very minor issues, Simpler said.
The only support for the proposed zoning changes came from Rod Krantz, whose Beach St. property is on the city’s wish list.
“I’m going to tell you right now, it’s going to take a long, long time before my family will ever sell this. it’s a beautiful property, we enjoy it, and unfortunately we’re not going to sell it to the city, so take that into consideration.”
Despite the amount of time and resources needed to purchase those properties, former mayor Dorothy Tinning pleaded for council to stick to the 25-year-old plan. While the private waterfront properties will have large price tags attached when an opportunity to purchase arises, there are many avenues of financial support available.
“This needs to be recognized as important park last for future generations,” she said.