Despite overwhelming community opposition, an application to convert a Summerland motel to affordable housing apartments has been approved.
The motel, located at 2107 Tait Street in the Trout Creek area, applied to council to convert from tourist commercial to high-density residential zoning.
On Nov. 9. District of Summerland staff and council discussed feedback received at a public hearing held that same day, regarding the proposed amendment.
The public hearing showed overwhelming concern at the proposal from members of the public, including neighbouring businesses. From the business owner’s perspective, he must convert part of his motel as, “the tourism business is in dire straits.”
A repeated concern by the public is the location is unsuitable for high-density housing, citing a lack of nearby amenities and the alleged presence of crime at the motel which they say could become worse with the introduction of low-income housing.
“The demand for housing is real; however, this is not the right location for the type of housing proposed,” read one response.
“I do not believe it will enhance our community. One bedroom and bachelor low-rental, away from any amenities, do not belong here,” read another.
Some queried whether an increase in police presence would follow the rezoning approval. Another raised a lack of support services in Trout Creek for those living in the affordable housing units.
Additionally, a petition (P. 18) against the rezoning application by residents of Trout Creek garnered over 100 signatures.
Although few and far between, some did voice their approval for the project, saying affordable housing is hard to come by.
Summerland Motel owner John Lathey spoke in a response to council, saying converting part of the motel to long-term rental units will, ‘if anything, improve matters on-site’.
His proposal would convert part of his motel to five one-bedroom units, and 22 studio apartments. Twenty-nine motel units would remain short-term rentals.
He referenced a challenging economic state as a reason for converting.
“We have to adjust to present-day reality, the tourism business is in dire straights and does not look likely to improve anytime soon,” he said. “Airbnb has impacted our business a great deal, especially as Trout Creek is a favoured area for such lettings…”
In discussion, councillors acknowledged the concerns of residents. All agreed that it was a tough decision to make.
A repeated message was that converting the rental units into long-term housing wouldn’t do anything but improve the situation.
“I really think that what’s being proposed would help address the neighbour’s concerns… I’m conflicted because the neighbours are overwhelmingly convinced it’ll make things worse, whereas… the plans kind of suggest it would make it better,” said Coun. Doug Holmes.
Coun. Doug Patan raised the need for affordable rental accommodation in the Summerland area, saying the District doesn’t have ‘developers knocking our door’ proposing new rental developments.
Coun. Erin Trainer called Trout Creek unique, saying they shouldn’t make drastic changes to the Official Community Plan without a proper neighbourhood plan in place.
“At this point in time, I cannot be in support of this project,” she said.
Mayor Toni Boot referenced a quote by the motel owner, saying, “the crime that goes on in Trout Creek is not the responsibility of the Summerland Motel.”
Boot agreed with this statement, saying crime is present throughout Summerland and the Okanagan.
While acknowledging concerns, she voiced her approval for the project.
“I agree with a number of the councillors that have said… we really need to increase our housing mix, our housing options in Summerland,” said Boot.
Coun. Carlson said more conversation about the future of the Trout Creek neighbourhood needs to happen, before approving high-density housing for the first time.
Staff recommended the amendment be read a third time and approved. The motion was carried after councillors Holmes, Paton, Barkwill, Van Alphen, and Mayor Boot voted in favour of the bylaw amendment. Councillors Trainer and Carlson voted against.
After the voted Coun. Holmes added: “I just hope the applicant has heard the neighbourhood, and respects and understand their concerns and proves them wrong.”
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