Despite a lengthy public consultation process, the final discussion on Summerland’s proposed Urban Growth Plan took on much the same character as discussions on previous land use plans.
For most of 2013, efforts were in place to ensure a high level of public input. In the end, around 1,300 people filled out surveys and participated in discussions, workshops and open houses on the plan.
The numerous public sessions were set up to ensure the plan would represent the wishes of the community.
However, when the report was received in early December, it was evident that there was a significant level of opposition to the proposed plan.
A petition set up in opposition to the agricultural land exchange received 2,600 signatures, including 1,200 from Summerlanders.
This level of opposition must not be ignored.
Others spoke out at the public hearing to express their concerns about the proposed plan.
Public comment is an important part of any land use plan and the comments raised on Monday should receive careful consideration.
Any land use plan will affect the community for many years to come. Once an area has been developed, it is difficult if not impossible to return it to an undeveloped state.
For this reason, extreme care must be taken with any plan involving land use.
Along with the points which have been raised about the effects of the growth plan, one other question must be asked.
What measures, if any, can be taken so future plans do not result in the same level of tension and divisiveness?
Today and in the future, Summerland needs a plan which can be embraced by all, a plan which can unite and not divide our community.
Fragmentation and polarization do not benefit any of us.