The City of Penticton is giving residents a couple more weeks to get informed about the proposed expansion of the city borders into the Skaha Bluffs area.
Instead of ending on Oct. 31, residents will now have until Nov. 15 to decide if they support the concept, or want to oppose it by filing a petition against it as part of the alternate approval process.
The reason for the change is conflicts in the dates used in some of the notices about community information sessions, but city staff also see it as a chance to address questions being raised about the expansion and the alternate approval process being used instead of a straight referendum. Under an AAP, about 2,600 voters would have to register their opposition. If that happened, the city would be forced to a referendum if they chose to pursue the annexation of the 300 acres.
Questions have been raised about the AAP as much as the actual annexation, which would see the area brought under city control and housing development to begin in the area.
Anthony Haddad, director of development services, said using the AAP for land extensions is typical. In this case, he said, there has already been a lot of public consultation on the general concept.
That area was looked at back in 2002, when the OCP was put together, as a future growth area, then formalized through the Upper Wiltse Area Structure Plan.
“The 2002 OCP identified it as one of the city’s growth area. As a city, we are limited in terms of where we can grow, with the lakes,” said Haddad. “This is one growth area, it is certainly not where we are going to see all of our growth as a city. We are seeing a lot growth downtown within the core of the community, which is certainly a priority for growth right now.”
A key part of the annexation proposal is the possibility of expanding Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park at the same time. Only a small part of the 300 acres is suitable for development, with room enough for about 180 residential units. The southeastern portion, on the current borders of the provincial park, are a different story.
“The southern and eastern portions of the 300 acres are really restricted in terms of the development potential,” said Haddad, explaining it’s not only because of the rocky bluffs that make up that area, but also a number of environmentally significant areas.
“B.C. Parks has been really engaged in this process. They’ve been looking at securing additional lands around the Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park area for a number of years.”
Haddad said that’s an exciting opportunity for the community. Not only would accessibility increase with added infrastructure in the area, but improved protection of the environmentally sensitive areas, being part of a provincial park, inside city limits.
“Our ability to protect those through land-use restrictions and measures increases with them coming into the city,” said Haddad. “If the AAP process and the annexation process move forward, then the lands would be subject to zoning and subdivision and all the various development approvals and triggers before any development happens up there.”
Two information sessions have already been held on the expansion, and there are more to come.
“I think a lot of people really like the proposal and the opportunity to add park. They just have some important questions about what it means to taxpayers and so we are going to spend some time getting those answers and having that conversation with the community,” said JoAnne Kleb, the city’s community engagement officer.
An additional open house is planned for Oct. 14 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At the open house, residents will be able to speak with staff about the Upper Wiltse Area Structure Plan as well as the Skaha Bluffs Area Boundary Extension Application.
Information about the proposal is available on shapeyourcitypenticton.ca and city staff have hosted information sessions on Sept. 27 and 30. A family-friendly open house is also planned for Oct. 5 starting at 3 p.m. at Wiltse Elementary.
“After speaking with people at various engagement activities, we are hearing that some residents would like a refresher on the plan for the whole area and understand how it aligns with the Official Community Plan before forming an opinion on this application,” said Haddad.
Petitions already received against the expansion will be included under the new timeline. Residents can get copies of the petition at city hall as well as online at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.