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5-storeys still too tall for Penticton’s downtown, votes city council

Vote against new development leaves one councillor questioning validity of city’s zoning restrictions
The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)

Five-storeys is two too many for Penticton’s downtown core in the eyes of city council.

Councillors shot down a proposed five-storey development on Front Street due to its size during Tuesday’s (June 15) meeting.

The development would have been made up of commercial retail space on the first floor and residential spaces on the upper levels and filled the gap next to the Lloyd Gallery.

This was the second time the proposal was rejected by council. An earlier version of the proposal in 2019 also saw council deny the application.

The developer amended the proposal to account for some of the feedback, but in the end, the changes weren’t enough for most council members.

The proposal was rejected in a 5-1 vote, with Coun. Julius Bloomfield being the only one to vote in favour of moving forward to a public hearing.

Coun. Katie Robinson, Coun. Judy Sentes and mayor John Vassilaki all voiced their opinions that the building is too tall for the location and that the new proposal was not different enough from the original.

“Staff are recommending this go forward because they believe that this new project has accommodated those concerns but I personally don’t believe that. I don’t think it’s any different than what came forward two years ago,” Sentes said.

As it stands, the Official Community Plan (OCP) currently doesn’t allow for buildings more than three storeys high in the downtown area.

“Personally, if it’s more than three storeys I’m not going to want it anyway,” Robinson said. “We put a lot of time and effort into our OCP and the people told us loud and clear ‘we don’t want any more higher buildings on Front Street’.”

Council has granted exceptions to the downtown three-storey limit in the past, including the five-storey affordable housing development to be built in the 600 Block of Main Street.

Mayor Vassilaki said he thought the building was “beautiful” but simply too tall for the area. “If it was [in a different area] it would look gorgeous. I would even rent a spot in it, that’s how nice it is. But, to me, it’s not any different than what was presented in 2019,” Vassilaki said.

Coun. Bloomfield was the only person to vote in favour of moving forward with the development.

Bloomfield questioned whether it was time to make revisions to the OCP, calling the current OCP “restrictive” to the downtown area.

“The one area where we haven’t seen any investment in buildings, or new buildings, in the city, is on Main Street and Front Street,” Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield believes the current OCP makes it financially impossible to carry out a successful development on Main Street and Front Street.

“I respect the OCP and the work that went into it… but I think that what we’ve got, in practice, is restricting economic investment in the very area that the majority of the city wants to see us putting in investment and bringing in a more vibrant downtown,” he said.

“This policy of no more than three-storeys on Front Street and Main Street is doing the exact opposite of what everybody wants us to do.”

READ MORE: Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

READ MORE: City allows five storeys for affordable housing project

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Jesse Day

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