Summerland council defeats Banks Crescent development proposal

Council members vote 5-2 against controversial seniors housing development

After more than a year of reports, presentations, letters and petitions, Summerland municipal council defeated the controversial Banks Crescent development proposal on Tuesday evening.

The development proposal was for a 415-unit seniors housing facility, to be built overlooking Okanagan Lake.

The zoning would allow up to 425 units.

One day before the special meeting of council, more than 80 people spoke at a six-hour public hearing. The majority were opposed to the development proposal.

The meeting on Tuesday evening was held at the Summerland Arena Banquet Room, before a full crowd.

Most council members read from prepared notes as they presented their views on the proposal.

Coun. Janet Peake said the area had been identified as a development area and the proposal meets the criteria as a suitable development.

“I see the development potential for this area,” said Coun. Janet Peake.

Coun. Doug Holmes disagreed. He said Summerland’s greatest need at present is for affordable housing, but the proposed seniors housing facility will not meet that need.

“There won’t be local people buying these units,” he said. Instead, he believes people from the Lower Mainland would purchase the units. As a result, the prices of these units would increase.

“Where are people in Summerland going to move when those prices are driven up?” he asked.

He said the increased cost of housing is a concern, but adding a development of this nature will not address the rising costs.

“We re building more houses than ever before, but prices keep going up,” he said.

Coun Erin Carlson said she and others on council were elected to protect agriculture and lands within the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve.

While the land for the development has been used as an orchard and vineyard, it is not in the land reserve and had been identified for future development.

However, she said the trout hatchery raised concerns about the risk to the water supply.

“They remain opposed to the project because it is a risk to Shaughnessy Springs,” Carlson said.

Because of this risk, she said she could not support the development proposal.

“I believe we can do better than this,” she said.

Coun. Toni Boot, who had spoken against the proposal in the past, said she could not support the development.

“This development is not compatible for a number of philosophical reasons,” she said.

She explained it would not provide affordable housing, and it would not be multi-generational housing.

“The high-end Icasa development is an exclusive development,” she said. “It is not for young families.”

Coun. Richard Barkwill said it was difficult for him to reach a decision on the development proposal.

“I truly have tried to keep an open mind on this proposal,” he said, “but I cannot support this development.”

He said the concerns raised by the trout hatchery had not been adequately addressed by the developer.

The development would also be too big for the site.

“I just cannot see my way to 415 units on this space,” he said.

Coun. Erin Trainer said council members spent hundreds of hours on the proposal.

“We will never have certainty on everything, nor can we expect it,” she said.

She added that the proposal does not satisfy the intent of the Official Community Plan.

“I cannot support this proposed OCP amendment and rezoning,” she said. “The scope and location of this project are not a good fit for Summerland.”

Mayor Peter Waterman said he saw the project as a way to bring people, especially younger people, to Summerland.

“I looked at it as a business,” he said of the proposal. The business would bring jobs and the financial benefits from taxes and fees would benefit the community, he said.

Waterman added that the municipality needs funding to pay for much-needed infrastructure upgrades.

“If you haven’t noticed the potholes on Main Street, you’d better open your eyes,” he said.

While Waterman said he has tried to consider those who live near the proposed development, he said he also has a responsibility to look at the needs of the whole community.

Peake said the housing development would fit the community.

“This town is ready to grow,” she said.

Boot agreed that there is a need for development in Summerland, “but it needs to be development that makes sense,” she added.

Barkwill said there were aspects of the development proposal that appealed to him.

“I wish I could have supported this project, but somewhere you’ve got to draw the line,” he said.

The motion to approve third reading of the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendments was defeated. Waterman and Peake voted in favour of the motion, while Holmes, Carlson, Boot, Barkwill and Trainer were opposed.

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