The empty lot at 603 Main Street where council will be considering allowing a five-storey affordable housing building to be built. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

The empty lot at 603 Main Street where council will be considering allowing a five-storey affordable housing building to be built. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)

Residents air concerns about proposed affordable housing complex ahead of public hearing

The hearing will take place at 6 p.m. on Dec. 7

The City of Penticton will be holding a public hearing on allowing a proposed affordable housing project to have five-stories instead of three.

The city will be gathering feedback with the hearing at 6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in person, as well as through Zoom, phone and email.

Ahead of the public hearing, members of the community have already been making their voices heard by the city and council. Their letters of opposition or support are included in the public agenda for the meeting on the city’s website.

READ MORE: Penticton council to weigh allowing five-storey affordable housing development

The Downtown Penticton Association sent council a letter with some of the issues that they see with the proposed housing project.

Among them are changing the zoning on Main Street and the Official Community Plan to allow a five-storey building that is primarily residential.

“Three-story buildings are built on a human scale where people are recognizable; lower heights increase social interaction and connectivity with the streets; a continuous flow of business and retail along city sidewalks increases downtown walkability,” reads the letter.

Resident Denis O’Gorman also sent in a letter and agreed that the 600 block should shift towards residential, while maintaining the standards of the area.

“However, the focus should be on defining the appropriate height, acceptable design, and ensuring a fit with established 600 Main street businesses,” reads the letter.

Other residents raised concerns about allowing an exception to the zoning and OCP after the newly updated plan was put in place in 2019.

“It was just completed last year, after over two years of extensive consultation. We shouldn’t even consider amending the plan as it was just made and the needs of the community have not changed,” reads a letter from Debbie and Ken Wagar, who live in the property across the street from the proposed development.

Residents shared concerns about how the five-story proposed property would fit in, when every other building on the street maintains the current three-storey limit.

Also a concern is the parking, which in the official proposal that went to Council in November, listed 15 tuck-under spots for the proposed 28 residential units.

The M’akola Housing Society’s presentation and proposal lists some of their reasoning for the chosen site.

They noted that the lot is on a public transportation line, and that it is within walking distance to the library, groceries, banks, fitness and recreation, the farmers’ market, schools, and other amenities.

It is also a vacant site, with all utilities available, and an affordable option that would allow the society to offer reduced rents according to the presentation.

The presentation also noted that the society would be working with city staff and architects to increase the number of parking spaces, and that a parking study is underway.

Following council’s decision on whether to allow five stories or not, the project would still need further approval after the design phase to receive the development permit.

READ MORE: Affordable housing projects in Keremeos continue to sit empty

The project would be funded partly through an application to BC Housing due Jan. 15, 2021, with construction estimated to take 16 months.

Residents looking to provide feedback ahead of the public meeting have until 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 7 to send in an email or letter to city hall for consideration by council.

Contact the city’s corporate officer prior to 9:30 a.m. Monday for instructions on how to access the Zoom public hearing, and the phone number to call in.

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