Is it a lane or a walkway?
The developer and neighbouring residents couldn’t agree either way, so Penticton council met them in the middle and called it both.
Council voted unanimously Monday to not only preserve the pedestrian and cyclist walkway in the lane running south from Lakeshore Drive to Churchill Avenue, but also ensure vehicles have access to the area in a compromised solution that would allow a four-plex development to proceed at 433 Churchill Ave.
On Sept. 6, council deferred the vote on the zoning bylaw amendment for the four-plex, which required a variance permit to allow for a slight reduction of side and backyard setbacks. The deferral came in response to the dozen residents who said during the public hearing they were opposed to the project’s parking plan because it could impinge on pedestrian traffic toward Okanagan Lake.
Anthony Haddad, the city’s development services director, said staff could tell early on a compromise would not be reached between the groups divided on whether or not to close the lanes to traffic.
In light of the split in the community, Haddad said the engineering department came up with four options for council to consider.
The first option called for a reduction of the travel portion of the lane to 3.5 metres and dedicating 2.5 metres as a pedestrian walkway that would be delineated through either pavement markings and/or a raised curb. A crosswalk would also be installed from the walkway across from Churchill Avenue. Vehicle traffic would be restricted to one way from Churchill south towards the east-west lane, which would remain a two-way lane. Signage would also be installed notifying vehicles of the crosswalk as well as notifying pedestrians of the shared laneway.
According to Haddad’s report, the changes would cost between $4,700 and $9,500, which would have to come from revisions to the city’s 2011 budget.
The second option would close the lane to vehicle traffic between Churchill and the east-west lane by installing bollards at both ends. This would also prevent the proposed development from having parking off the lane. The third and fourth options pertained to restricting traffic to the lane from Churchill by closing off one end of the lane with bollards. All four options also included a four-way stop and pavement markings to calm vehicle traffic.
Haddad said staff recommended the first option, because it “provides for an appropriate compromise to the situation” in the area.
He said the development complies with the city’s official community plan, and that four residential units will “detrimentally impact” traffic on the existing lane. Although recognizing residents’ concerns about pedestrian safety, he cautioned against solutions that would see the lane closed to traffic completely.
“This lane has always been used for vehicular access, and the lane is an important vehicular link to the east-west lane that runs from Winnipeg Street to Power Street,” Haddad said.
As a condition of approval, he said, plans should be submitted that illustrate the planter boxes fronting on the laneway be removed to ensure all fencing is transparent along the western property line of the development so cars have can have adequate visibility.
“I think everyone agreed that safe pedestrian access to the beach is essential and should be preserved,” Coun. Garry Litke said, adding while he feels bollards are a “temporary solution,” he remains optimistic a permanent fix could be found in the future. “We’re not closing the doors to better ideas.”
Coun. Mike Pearce said after meetings with staff, residents and the developers, no clear solution was found — leaving council to step in like a judge.
“We have to make the decision. Likely someone’s going to be upset,” he said. “I’m satisfied after reading everything that staff have done an excellent job. … I think it’s a good compromise.”
Council passed third reading of the development variance permit, including the first option to dedicate portions of the lane to both vehicles and pedestrians.