Public needs the facts on development
In explaining council’s decision to fund upgrades for the Columbia Heights and Upper Carmi area water system from “water reserves” rather than through borrowing, Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton noted that city council has done “a terrible job” of explaining the plan.
He was of course referring to the original borrowing plan. The sudden shift to instead drawing from the water reserve fund also requires explanation. If advisable, why wasn’t this pursued initially?
This diversion of funds from the water reserve must have an effect on other priorities in the Water Master Plan. Typically, a reserve fund is for systematic upgrades and replacements to existing infrastructure. What then is the effect of this new direction?
The decision to extend water services to the Sendero Canyon development and adjacent lands is described as sound city planning, as Upper Carmi is “identified in future planning for the city”. Anticipating an obvious future growth direction is clearly sound. However, it raises questions as to why Upper Carmi remains outside the city and why official annexation has not been pursued.
The public needs to be given information on the full scope of the overall Upper Carmi development. How much more than Sendero’s initial 200 lots is proposed? How, for example, are city requirements for park space and other civic essentials being identified for this growth area? Is RDOS doing this planning for Penticton?
The impact of proposed development on sustainable water supplies has presumably been analyzed. The city should provide information on this important consideration. What is the comfortable carrying capacity of projected water supplies allowing for full build-out of the proposed urban villages, ad hoc up-zonings and other densification, plus Columbia Heights and Upper Carmi?
Another important area of missing facts relates to provisions for recovering costs of water service provided outside of present city boundaries.
Having a stock of developable land benefits housing and construction markets. It also presents a significant profit opportunity. Both are enabled by water supply. Could providing this service prior to annexation weaken the ability of Penticton to recover costs and thus restore the water reserve fund?
Questions such as these point to some of the “facts” on which information should be provided. Briefing of citizens and attention to their concerns should precede any contractual arrangements between the city and developers in the Upper Carmi area to ensure the interests of ratepayers are properly represented.