Penticton council is once again seeking the public’s input regarding promised access to a set of public trails on Campbell Mountain.
At a public hearing this Monday evening, followed by deliberations shortly after, council will discuss what is the most practical route to the public lands and whether a developer’s money currently being held by the city can or should be used to pay for whichever route is chosen.
That is if council decides to pursue having an access constructed to Campbell Mountain at all — although this option would certainly be received with significant public displeasure considering stakeholder enthusiasm for such a trail.
The city currently holds a $47,850 security from developer Victor Durman for the construction of a staircase to the lands.
Durman agreed to build the staircase as part of the rezoning process at 1701 Penticton Ave. for the construction of a 68-lot development. However, after spending what he estimated to be somewhere between $50,000 to $80,000 in consultants fees, Durman said he will not be able to obtain the necessary approvals from the province and/or the federal government to build the staircase as it would required his construction team to cross through a Streamside Protection and Enhancement Area.
“I can honestly say that we did everything we could to mitigate the riparian setbacks,” said Durman, asking council to relieve him of his obligation to build the staircase and give him back the money.
At a December public hearing, council heard from several cyclists, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts adamant that some sort of public access be built.
Penticton and Area Cycling Association president Andrew Drouin mapped out a route that could be extended from a city-owned walking path near the Penticton Fly Fishermen’s headquarters over a creek via a walking bridge, through to the base of a short slope and up into Campbell Mountain. The idea received support from the wilderness community.
Since then, city staff have investigated Drouin’s route, as well as possible funding options for fixing up the trail and the bridge including Durman’s security.
However, in a letter to the city the developer said the issue of the stairwell “has nothing to do with nor is it connected to this new initiative,” insisting that his money should be returned.
“We have taken advice on this matter and we have been advised we are on very strong ground (regarding) our request for the return of our letter of credit,” said Durman. “They have recommended that I contact the lawyer who acted for Blackwell against the Naramata Water District. However, that is not our way and we are asking to be fairly treated.”
Whether Durman has received unassailable legal advice is apparently an issue of debate at City Hall as the agreement’s July 2010 deadline to have the stairwell built may entitle the city to unilaterally spend the money on whatever it likes — or maybe not.
Further complicating the matter, upon communication with both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Environment, city staff have received assurances that if the city applied for a hardship variance, “a design solution could likely be developed at the original access point which would” allow the stairwell to be built after-all.
An exciting development for those who want public access to Campbell Mountain, except it seems the outdoor enthusiasts now have their hearts set on the Penticton Creek access route as opposed to the stairwell route, of which Drouin says, “From a long-term, physically sustainable surface point of view, the plan is a bad one.”
Monday’s hearing starts at 6 p.m. in the council chambers.