Summerland council decides to take it slow

Summerland council votes for an extended public consultation over a seniors' residential development

An artist’s rendering showing a proposed seniors’ development nestled in the Bristow gulch. Council has decided to follow an extended approval process for this project.

An artist’s rendering showing a proposed seniors’ development nestled in the Bristow gulch. Council has decided to follow an extended approval process for this project.

It’s going to be a while before the future of a seniors development proposed for Summerland is decided.

In the meantime, the promise is that the community will have the opportunity for more information and discussions.

“Regardless of what happens this evening, we will be having more opportunities for full public discussion of the proposal for development in the Banks Crescent area,” said Mayor Peter Waterman.

Nov. 14 was the first official introduction of the project, which would see up to 380 units of seniors housing with a mix of market housing, independent and assisted living, along with amenities, on a group of properties east of Bristow Road.

It’s history, however, goes back farther. The developer, the Lark Group, first approached municipal staff in the spring of this year, and presented their idea to council at the end of April, followed by a neighbourhood open house in May.

Ian McIntosh, director of development services, said that even if Lark Group gets the needed rezoning, there are a number of permits and studies that will have to be completed before a building permit could be issued, especially since part of the site falls into a high hazard Red Zone for stability, and other areas are in AN environmentally sensitive permit area.

“Once all that is through, then they can apply for a building permit,” said McIntosh. In 2008, the area was identified as potential residential, though it is zoned agricultural at the moment and the surrounding land is zoned for single family residential. Building the project would mean the loss of seven acres of non-ALR agricultural land.

McIntosh’s report notes the project will likely have a more significant impact on neighbourhood character rather than community character.

Kirk Fisher, senior vice-president of the Lark Group, said there are a number of benefits to Summerland from the project, starting with employment. He estimates 200 to 300 local construction jobs over the three years building the first phase and 75 to 100 full-time equivalent jobs on completion.

Depending on what form the full build takes, Fisher said it could be worth between $350,000 to $500,000 in annual property taxes to the city.

There are also indirect benefits. Fisher said his company, which has built 18 similar facilities, is working with St. Elizabeth, a not-for-profit specializing in home and health care services, who will operate the finished facility.

Answering a question from Coun. Janet Peake, Fisher said that St. Elizabeth will be looking to hire locally if possible.

“They have 2.5 years of planning to put together the team they need. Locally is of course the best, next is to bring people if required,” said Fisher.

Council, as a whole was concerned with aspects of the project, particularly the preliminary geotech and hydrological reports and how those might change as the project became more detailed.

Fisher confirmed they are designing the project to avoid the areas already labelled Red Zone or environmentally sensitive. He said that if more detailed studies show a problem, the project will be revised as needed.

In the end, council voted 5-2 to give the application first reading, which doesn’t trigger a public hearing, but allows time for both the developer and the municipality to do further public consultation. The city will be scheduling a public open house for January, after which they will decide when a formal public hearing will be held.

Fisher said he is looking forward to the public interaction.

“We’re used to that process, we are excited about that process, because quite often it is a lack of information that people are more scared about than anything,” said Fisher.