The Official Community Plan (OCP) is an important document, right?
All Summerlanders were encouraged to come out to quite a few meetings to give input into shaping our town.
Many of us did this. It cost us a lot of time and study. A plan was adopted. Hooray!
Is an OCP a forever-binding static document?
No, but wait a minute!
A serious planning process went into the OCP effort.
“Yes, but,” the mayor insisted at the last council meeting, “the OCP is a living document.”
What exactly does this mean for all of Summerland, and in this case, for the 17 homeowners from Towgood Place in Trout Creek?
They live in a quiet residential neighbourhood next to a campground.
The owner of the campground wants to “develop” his campground into a housing complex.
The question is: How many houses are reasonable on .08 hectares or less than 2.5 acres?
Of course, the owner-developer wants to maximize profit.
His first idea was for 24 homes.
Because of neighbourhood pressure, he reduced the number to 20, which is called medium density.
Hmmm.. really? That’s called medium density?
The plan was projected on the council chamber’s screens.
From the picture, the housing development looked like wall-to-well concrete.
The display showed three tiny rectangular green spaces, but when the owner-developer was asked how big these green spaces would actually be, he stated: “We don’t know yet.”
Few council members asked questions.
Unfortunately, Bruce Hallquist was not present.
Peter Waterman stated that the density was too great and not in accordance with the neighbourhood’s wishes.
He was the only member who actually thought that the 17 homeowners had a good point. Such density changes a neighbourhood forever and will put more cars on Highway 97 in what already is a congested area.
The Towgood Place homeowners thought that 10 to 12 condos would be more reasonable on that small land base.
But they didn’t have a chance. Except for Peter Waterman and Bruce Hallquist, the council steamrollered over the neighbourhood’s wishes.
Yes, the Official Community Plan is a living document subject to change.
But in this case, it was treated like a matter of a simple variance.
This drastic change in the OCP does not bode well for Summerland. We have seen what has happened in Kelowna and Westbank (West Kelowna) when developers are allowed to maximize profit at the expense of the public: ugly spaces with little landscaping and bad traffic flow.
Are we doomed to the same fate?
We need better planning than this!
Even though council has a legal right to change the OCP at a council meeting, there is a moral case for actually listening to neighbouring homeowners and for treating the OCP with the seriousness it deserves.
The so-called council hearing seemed like a sad charade with a foregone conclusion.