There’s no date set yet, but Summerland council has voted to move the controversial Banks Crescent project to the public hearing stage.
Linda Tynan, chief administrative officer for the district, says the hearing could happen in early February, but she is still working on what would be the best date.
“I need now to look at everyone’s schedule,” said Tynan. “We need to make sure all of council is there.”
There have been calls to delay the public hearing until sometime in the spring when residents that are wintering in warmer climes have returned, but Tynan said that isn’t necessary.
“Council has had lots of input so far, all of which is just as relevant as the public hearing and those people that are away can still submit,” said Tynan. “They certainly can have just as big a voice by submitting a letter as they can by speaking. There’s lots of opportunities for people to contribute their perspectives.”
Banks Crescent has been a source of controversy since November 2016 when the public first learned of the project, which would see the Lark Group build about 400-plus units of seniors housing with a mix of market housing, independent and assisted living, along with amenities, built on a group of properties east of Bristow Road.
At that time, council voted 5-2 to give the project application first reading, which doesn’t trigger a public hearing but allowed the developer and the municipality to start the public consultation process.
With this vote, however, district council was unanimous that it move to a public hearing.
Council received a number of updates on the Banks Crescent project at their January 8 meeting, including a third-party review of the Aquifer Protection Strategy developed by the Lark Group. The study by Golder Associates “supports the conclusion of Lark’s consultants that the earthworks and heavy vehicle movement will result in relatively low vibration levels in the aquifer and at Shaughnessy Springs and therefore presents a low risk to the aquifer.”
Opposition to the Banks Crescent proposal started building as soon as it was announced, with some residents expressing concerns about the stability of the slope, effects on Shaughnessy Spring, which supplies water to the trout hatchery, the effect on local roads and changes to the current rural character of the neighbourhood. A petition started in late 2016 opposing the development topped more than 1,000 signatures by the end of January 2017, and now is over 3,000.
Tynan said though they don’t know how large the crowd will be she needs to find a suitable venue for what might be a significant number of participants.
“There are over 3,000 names on the petition so one would suspect that it will be very large,” said Tynan, who is also planning for what might also be a long meeting.
“We’re going to schedule it in two components, an afternoon session and evening session,” said Tynan, adding there might be the possibility of an extension. “We won’t do six hours in a row. We will just temporarily adjourn it and reschedule it for the next day if it is really very large. I would suspect that it is going to be significant.”
Spreading it out, she said, would help council absorb the information.
“The whole essence of a public hearing is that council is engaged and listening to what people have to say,” she said, adding that the afternoon and evening sessions will make the public hearing more accessible.
“We will try to schedule it so everyone can attend who wants to attend.”