This area of Naramata Bench overlooking Lake Okanagan was the proposed sight for a 300 plus home development by Canadian Horizons. (Canadian Horizons photo)

This area of Naramata Bench overlooking Lake Okanagan was the proposed sight for a 300 plus home development by Canadian Horizons. (Canadian Horizons photo)

Penticton council shoots down Canadian Horizons rezoning request

Council voted unanimously against moving forward with the process

The application to rezone a large property on Spiller Road in Penticton has been shot down early by Penticton city council.

Council voted unanimously to not move forward with first reading of the proposal and the public engagement process on Tuesday (Feb. 16). The development company Canadian Horizons was looking to rezone the property to build a 300-plus home “city style” development.

A group of protesters appeared outside city hall prior to council’s meeting, voicing their distaste for the proposed development. The development had recieved heavy opposition from locals, including a tractor rally outside city hall in the summer.

READ MORE: WATCH: Tractors line Main Street in opposition of Naramata Bench development

After city staff presented a lengthy report analyzing the proposal, it was recommend that council go forward with first readings of the zoning amendment bylaw and community engagement process.

However, council shot down this idea, saying they had heard enough opposition from the community on the project already.

Coun. Katie Robinson was the first to speak up against the development, saying she believes the current zoning of country residential is suitable for the property.

“I firmly believe the correct zoning is on the property and this is country residential,” Robinson said. “I really see this as an urban project that’s trying to move out into the country.”

Many councillors and mayor John Vassilaki voiced similar views as Robinson.

“I think the key to building a great city and get neighbourhood is building something that reflects the natural beauty of that area,” said Coun. Julius Bloomfield. “That’s a city style subdivision in a country setting.”

Coun. Judy Sentes said she had heard enough opposition from the community to know the project couldn’t move forward. “I truly do not believe this is the best for our community,” she said. “I believe there are other opportunities in the wings that will be more appropriate.”

Sentes and Vassilaki also both noted that it would detrimental to have staff spend more time and money analyzing the development when councillors were already firm in their opinion that the property should not be rezoned.

Coun. Campbell Watt was originally in favour of staff’s recommendation to move forward with the first reading and engagement process. Watt said misinformation and rumours about the development showed the need for community engagement.

However, Watt ultimately sided with Robinson and the rest of council. But he did voice his concerns about what could now happen to the property as Canadian Horizons will now be restricted to developing the property under the current zoning.

“[By not moving forward with community engagement] we are opening the door for the developer to put something there that could be something we don’t want,” Watt said.

Vice-president of Canadian Horizons, Nathan Hilderbrand expressed his dissapointment with council’s decision in the following statement emailed to the Western News:

“We are obviously very disappointed with the decision today by mayor and council regarding our Vinterra neighbourhood proposal at 1050 Spiller Road. As we have stated several times during this process, we have been diligently working on this project for over 10 years.

We have undertaken every study and answered every question that has been asked of us by current and previous councils, staff, and the community.

We have followed the approvals process as well as put forward a proposal that was exactly what this council adopted and supported in 2019 when they approved the current OCP. There has been countless hours of staff time put into this proposal which was reflected in the report staff put together and the details outlined in it.

We will take some time to look at what options we have going forward. I feel bad for those individuals and families who are looking for a new home in Penticton in the coming years as your options just became less and more expensive with this council decision.”

READ MORE: Penticton housing project would ruin Naramata Bench, says group

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