It was a tale of two potential development sites Monday evening as Penticton council voted unanimously to allow about one half of the lands where the city’s waterslides used to be located to be rezoned to a multi-family residential designation.
The site was at one time two parcels of land but was amalgamated by developer Mel Reeves to build a resort development. However, the development went into bankruptcy before it ever got off the ground.
The court-appointed receiver now must sell the land to try and get some money back. But, according to the Royal LePage real estate agent hired to unload the property, selling the land has been made difficult because the property is too big and its current resort/tourist commercial zoning designation is unmarketable, particularly under the current economic conditions.
So the receiver asked the city’s permission to redivide, rezone and re-designate the land, with the lot facing Wilson Street becoming multi-family residential and the one facing Skaha Lake Road becoming general commercial/shopping centre.
There were few, if any, concerns raised regarding the Wilson Street lot. However, the Skaha Lake Road proposal attracted considerably more attention, with many residents and business owners alike concerned that the rezoning would be approved without the city knowing who will eventually develop the land and what they will do with it.
Several voiced their concerns at a public hearing prior to Monday’s council meeting, such as Yorkton Avenue homeowner Brenda Meneghetti, representing others from the neighbourhood.
“Don’t get us wrong,” Meneghetti told council. “We want the land developed. We just want a smart, sustainable development that complements our community and enhances the future of our city.”
Meneghetti said the land will be integral to the success or failure of the Skaha Urban Village both as a place to live and as a tourist destination.
“Previous city councils have done the most amazing job of protecting our waterfronts and our adjacent parks for public use,” she said. “It is now up to you as a council to protect our transition land and tourist commercial hubs for the quality of life citizens expect and deserve. We implore you to look beyond tonight, have a long-term vision to what could be and keep the use and zoning as it exists for now.
“When the purchaser has a vision and (the land) needs rezoning, we would be happy to meet again to comment on the real plan and get excited about how it can impact our community positively.”
Council also heard from Cherry Lane shopping centre general manager Gary Leaman, who asserted in a letter that Penticton already has an oversupply of retail and commercial space scattered throughout the city.
“Substantive commercial development works best for everyone when it is done in reasonable concentration,” said Leaman. “We are in real danger of mutating our community to rival the soulless and sprawling retail development of West Kelowna.
“The spirit of the (official community plan), the public interest and existing businesses are all best served in not supporting the proposed amendments.”
After the hearing, council voted to split the lots and deal with them separately. Coun. Mike Pearce suggested that council endorse the proposed changes to both of the lots, but only give final approval to the Wilson one, leaving the Skaha Lake lot without final approval until a development design is tabled and vetted.
“(It would) give cognizance to those people who took the time to come down here and help the developer deal with this and all the issues associated with $15 million worth of debt,” said Pearce.
Instead, council decided to only vote on the Wilson lot.
“That is a compromise in my way of thinking,” said Coun. Andrew Jakubeit. “It allows (the receiver) to move forward to some degree and protects some of the concerns that residents had.”