After more than a year of planning, consultations, reviews and announcement, Penticton’s new downtown plan became official this week with hardly a protest and no fanfare.
Philip Lock, a property owner along Martin Street, was the only member of the public to speak against the downtown plan when it came to a public hearing Monday evening. In particular, he was concerned about the plans to beautify Westminster Avenue and Martin Street.
“They wanted to spend $1.2 million and the owners were going to contribute up to 25 per cent,” said Lock, who added it’s a pattern he’s seen before.
“About 15 years ago, we did a revitalization of downtown and nothing has changed. It’s still the same issue, the same problems,” said Lock.
“Downtown is as beautiful as any shopping centre I have been to. I don’t know why you would want to spend millions of dollars in this time of restraint, when that isn’t even the problem.”
The problem council needs to concentrate on, according to Lock, is increasing the number of people living in and within walking distance of downtown. He thinks the downtown population needs to be increased by at least 2,000 people.
“That’s how you are going to create a more vibrant downtown. Every 15 years, a new crop of people comes along, the want to beautify downtown, they want to do all sorts of incredible things,” said Lock. “They haven’t approached any of the owners, the owners are going to have to pay for this. I’ve just finished paying for the last one. Now you are going to ask me to pay for the new one.”
The plan includes everything from changing design esthetics to expanding the range of uses businesses can put sidewalk areas to, encouraging neighbour shops to join sidewalk areas to create mini “sidewalk plazas.” It also includes the possibility of reducing development cost charges in the downtown, or creating downtown economic investment zones to encourage new developments.
Council voted unanimously to approve and incorporate the new downtown plan as part of the city’s official community plan.