More than 20 farmers from the Penticton area drove their tractors down Main Street and parked in front of City Hall today (Sept. 15), rallying against a proposed development in the Naramata Bench area.
The train of tractors made the trip from the outskirts of town to voice concerns over the development, proposed by developer Canadian Horizons.
The development would include 320-plus homes in the area of 1050 Spiller Road.
Yesterday, word of the proposed rally spread, and prompted a reaction from Canadian Horizons.
The farmers stopped on Main Street in front of City Hall, drawing a crowd of about 50 people in total. Several individuals spoke, including some farmers, business owners and development experts.
Farmer John Bilodeau, petition founder Josie Tyabji, business owner Lyndie Hill, architect Chris Allen were outspoken about their concerns.
“We just wanted to send a message to everyone here at City Hall that we don’t like this project,” said Bilodeau in front of the crowd.
Penticton mayor John Vassilaki also briefly addressed those present before he and his council returned inside to continue their regular council meeting.
The group is concerned that this development will threaten not only the environment but also the economy in the area. Tyabji referenced places such as Napa or Tuscany, where farm country is “well recognized as such and maintained as an important resource for the community.”
“Travelling to different areas of the world, you begin to really appreciate what we have in our community… the natural abundance, the agricultural belt, KVR trail, the wildlife, the cliffs and the rolling hills all paint a picture and offer an experience that is unparalleled in Canada… this is our brand,” said Tyabji.
Architect Chris Allen explained that although he has based his life around building developments, he is opposed to this one.
The mayor and council temporarily adjourned their council meeting to address the crowd.
“I can assure you I’m a people’s mayor, our council is a people’s council and we’ll do what’s in the best interest for the community and the City of Penticton,” said the mayor before him and his council returned to their meeting.
In terms of where the project is at, the City of Penticton’s planning department confirmed Tuesday that Canadian Horizons has made an application to the City to rezone their property. The City’s director of development services, Blake Laven said they are still waiting on a few items from the developer.
The 160-acre property, purchased by Canadian Horizons in 2005, is currently zoned country residential, which is described as larger lots on septic systems, with the exception of about 12 acres of the land currently zoned for a mobile home park.
Canadian Horizons is hoping to change this zoning to a mixture of R1 (large lot residential), R2, (small lot residential) and R3 (small lot with lanes) zoning. Laven explained the Canadian Horizons has removed all town housing from the project, and there are some lands that are zoned for open space conservation and park.
“When we are doing our analysis, we will be taking direction from the City’s official community plan (OCP), which does designate those lands for residential development,” said Laven.
Laven expects to receive more information by the end of the month, at which time the development services department can decide what their recommendation will be when the item is brought back before City council in November or December.