Development proposals that come before the council are proposals that require input from both the community and the council elected to serve them.
My response covers all types of development; not solely housing.
A lot of thought goes into the decisions the mayor and council are elected to make.
Here are just a few questions I ask to ensure I am making a strong and informed decision:
Does it require an Official Community Plan amendment? Does it fit the tone and character of both the proposed neighbourhood and of Summerland overall? Is rezoning required? If so, is the proposed zone the best zoning for the proposal? What impact will the proposal have on infrastructure? Does the potential for district revenue exceed the costs of long-term maintenance and repair to infrastructure? Does the proposal meet a need or fill a gap? What are the community’s thoughts on the proposed development? What are the potential risks? How can they be mitigated? Does the proposal increase the livability of Summerland? Is the proposal economically viable? Can the environment bear it? Is it socially equitable/acceptable? Does the proposal make us more self-reliant?
Each development proposal is looked at separately on its own merits.
The OCP and other policy documents previously developed by community and council are the frames to examine each application within.
As the proposal moves through the process information from various departments, the proponent and technical reports are brought forward.
The important thing to remember when considering development proposals is that it does not have to be a take it or leave it scenario.
We need a council with the strength and vision to be able to see what is good for Summerland and when a development proposal needs to be improved.
When a development proposal is rejected it does not mean council is against development, it just means that the majority of councillors felt that the proposal needs to be improved.
It is the same process in every community.
I believe that development can and will happen on the community’s terms, however, every piece of land has to wait until the time is right.
For example, the previous Wharton Street proposal with seven floors was ahead of its time and never got off the ground.
A developer is now in the process of building four stories of rental units with some retail/commercial on the bottom floor.
Everyone expects this to be a big success and much-needed addition to the community.
Every proposal that comes before council is different and is vetted thoroughly by staff.
Having up-to-date bylaws and well-documented processes play a big role and these things are being improved within the district.
When rezoning and variance requests are made to council, it’s important to have as much information as possible before making any decisions.
The impact on our land and water resources cannot be overlooked. Consideration of various other aspects could include such things as the location relative to services and the urban growth boundary, or the impact on neighbours and traffic volumes.
Development proposals in Summerland should follow the guidelines laid out in the Official Community Plan.
Development should happen in those areas that already have city services, not in zones that are now agricultural. The infill of present empty lots in the downtown area, for example, should be the priority.
The Official Community Plan identifies the downtown, Lowertown and Trout Creek neighbourhoods where development should be prioritized.
Proposals that require new infrastructure should be discouraged since they can create an unnecessary financial burden on Summerland’s taxpayers.
Development should also enhance the image that we want to portray for Summerland, an area of natural beauty with clean air and water.
If possible we should attract businesses that offer well-paying jobs, such as in the high-tech or renewable energy sectors, while agriculture-related industries remain our greatest strength.
All development applications must follow an open and transparent review process.
Returning to the days of old when councils circumvented due process and made back-room deals with little public discussion is not an option as far as I’m concerned.
When considering a development, council must look at all potential impacts on the community — economic, social, environmental, and cultural. Primarily, we need to consider the proposal’s compatibility with the community’s vision as set out in the Official Community Plan (OCP), especially in respect to location and scale. Planning should lead development, not the other way around.
When development occurs helter-skelter, you end up with a soulless community devoid of charm and character.
Planning tools like the OCP allow for orderly growth. They’re used to identify emerging issues and available resources and they make sure developments are useful or desirable for the community, both in the present and future.
Currently, planning allows us to place priority on smart growth principles like infill, renewal, densification, and the protection of agriculture and green space.
I am very familiar with the importance of development proposals, perhaps more so than my opponents because of my 30 years in real estate and previous council service.
Not only am I pro-business development, but I am also proud of our beautiful farmland. Summerland needs to increase density in downtown core areas and recognize the importance of keeping our farmland.
Unlike others, I have walked the talk on progressive development, studied architectural plans and design drawings, and met with development opposition leaders.
I focused on the long-term benefits for businesses and residents.
I promote smart growth that provides much-needed housing on smaller lots.
Increasing residential growth without destroying open spaces also brings revenue to offset rising municipal costs, and provides funds to repair decaying infrastructure and recreation facilities.
We must create a long-term plan to improve and maintain our infrastructure. Delayed repairs might save money today but costs more tomorrow.
I will bring to Summerland council, 18 years of municipal government experience dealing with developers, contractors, building contractors and homeowners.
In my experience, a municipality must strive to find a balance between the concerns of residents with the needs of new development to ensure a successful outcome with all involved.
Specifically, some of the aspects to be considered is how will this development work within the Official Community Plan or does it require an OCP amendment?
Does it fit into long-term planning?
Are variances to current zoning regulations needed?
Will the development fall within the form and character of the area, what off-site works are required and what are the long-term costs to the municipality?
These are a few of the questions that need to be asked before an informed decision can be made.
I would review proposals, listen carefully to our municipal staff on their recommendations and consider all viewpoints.
Each proposal will have strengths and weaknesses.
Each individual in the community will have a vision that either supports or opposes any development proposal.
If we deny every single development, Summerland will remain the same; a very desirable location. Unfortunately, property values will rise with demand, as will property taxes, forcing out long-term residences on fixed incomes.
We must allow for sustained growth as defined by our community plan and review this plan regularly.
I approach all development proposals with an open mind and look at them independently from past or similar proposals; I read through the staff report carefully, ask questions, talk to people in the community and at open houses, check the local media for any news on the proposal, and visit the site to see it in person; I list the pros and cons, consider costs and future implications, and look for any unintended consequences; I consider all public feedback.
Martin Van Alphen
Criteria for development decision making: read the information provided by the developer; keep an open mind; listen to staff recommendations; get feedback from the public; research on own — pros and cons; does it fit the profile of the neighbourhood; attend all public forums; ensure decision is made in a timely fashion.