Council members and municipal staff outlined the case for Summerland’s proposed Urban Growth Strategy and answered questions from the public at a town hall meeting on Monday evening.
The meeting was held at the Summerland Secondary School gym from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
At least 350 people attended.
The plan calls for the removal of 80.34 hectares of land within the Agricultural Land Reserve, close to the core of the community, while 91.7 hectares in the Prairie Valley Area would be added to the land reserve.
Of the members of council who will vote on the growth strategy, most spoke of the need for a new growth plan.
“The plan is out of date and it has to be corrected,” Coun. Orv Robson said.
Summerland’s existing growth plan was part of the 2008 Official Community Plan.
At that time, the proposed Summerland Hills Golf Resort was designated for future growth, but the development proposal is no longer being considered.
Coun. Martin Van Alphen said the 2008 plan, based on the 1996 Official Community Plan, is no longer applicable for Summerland.
“Lots of things have changed in the past 20 years,” he said.
Coun. Peter Waterman, a retired agrologist and farmer, has spoken against the proposed growth plan since it involves the removal of land from the Agricultural Land Reserve near the core of the community.
“I have heard no compelling argument that can justify the removal of this high quality land from the Agricultural Land Reserve,” he said.
Mayor Janice Perrino said Summerland enjoyed a robust growth rate from 1991 to 1996, but since that time, the population has risen by 6.5 per cent over a 15-year period.
During the same time, Perrino said Oliver’s population increased 12.5 per cent, Peachland saw a 15 per cent increase, Osoyoos had a 20.5 per cent increase and Lake Country grew by 35 per cent.
“That’s where the growth is happening,” she said, “and we missed all of it.”
High school enrolment has declined, service clubs have lost members and retail businesses have closed, she added.
She explained later that the other Okanagan communities are not affected in the same way by agricultural land removal.
“We happen to have the ALR right in the core of our community,” she said.
She said the community needs growth close to the downtown area.
Representatives from Dirty Laundry Vineyard and Mountain View Growers, who have requested land in the former Summerland Hills area to expand their agricultural businesses, also made presentations.
Hermann Teichtmeister of Dirty Laundry Vineyard said the land is ideal for vineyards as he expands his wine production.
“This is where I would like to grow the business,” he said.
Peter Klimuk, representing Mountain View Growers, said the greenhouse operation needs to make some upgrades. The land in the former Summerland Hills area is suitable for an expansion.
Following the presentations, written questions were heard.
Because of the time limit, fewer than half the questions received were answered.
Questions not addressed at the hearing will be considered and answers may be posted on the municipality’s website at summerland.ca.
A public hearing on the proposed development will be held at the Summerland Secondary School gym on Tuesday, April 22 at 7 p.m.
This is the second time council will hold a public hearing on the growth plan.
A hearing was held on March 3 in the Arena Banquet Room, but some who wished to attend were locked out as the room was filled to capacity.
Comments made at the March 3 meeting remain part of the public record.
Council will make a decision on the growth plan at the April 28 municipal council meeting.
Members of council told those present at the hearing that they have not yet made up their minds on the growth plan.
“We’ve all changed our minds at public hearings before,” Perrino said.
Coun. Lloyd Christopherson and Coun. Bruce Hallquist, who both own land in the affected area, have not participated in any of the discussions or votes on the proposed growth plan and will not be present for the public hearing or for the final vote on the plan.
Public input on the growth plan was gathered for much of 2013 and the plan was on the municipality’s agenda many times during that year.
Once the plan is approved, it must be forwarded to the provincial Agricultural Land Commission for approval.