Council soaks in xeriscape plan

No watering and less caretaking may add up to a xeriscape, but it doesn’t equal unanimous support from Penticton city.

  • Aug. 18, 2011 9:00 a.m.

No watering and less caretaking may add up to a xeriscape, but it doesn’t equal unanimous support from Penticton city.

Council agreed to postpone the vote on whether to amend a landscape plan for 403 Churchill Ave., where developers decided to water down landscape features in the name of conservation of both environmental and monetary resources.

Developers Eric Paakspuu and Rob Milanovic explained to council that they had begun building the 20-unit apartment building last summer, but decided in fall that they wanted to move the project ahead of schedule.

That meant hitting up the nursery for plants during the off-season, which didn’t have as great a selection in November. They chose instead to embrace the concept of xeriscaping — a landscape design that requires little to no irrigation to sustain plant life — with large shot rock, decorative grasses and evergreen trees.

“We had an opportunity to do absolute xeriscape, and we thought that would help the community,” Paakspuu said, explaining it would not require sprinkling like lawns.

“We don’t want turf. There’s no live-in manager, so we want to keep costs down to a minimum. If we put turf in there, we would have to bring someone in every week to do something we were looking to avoid.”

City planning technologist Blake Laven, however, recommended in his written report to council that the application to amend the plan be denied, noting the design was “rough and imposing, and detracts from an otherwise well-designed and attractive building.”

Milanovic said many of the plants placed amongst the rocks have not matured and, therefore, current pictures aren’t a good indicator of the design’s esthetics in the years to come. Neighbours they surveyed approved of the current look, he said.

He explained that the building features paths from the street to exterior entrances, much akin to townhouse designs. But those paths chopped up the landscape into small strips rather than large chunks, which would have then required approximately 36 sprinkler heads to properly irrigate.

That’s why they went with the easiest solution of xeriscaping, Milanovic explained.

“They (turf strips) would be hard to maintain, hard to irrigate and an eyesore if not looked after properly,” he said.

Coun. Judy Sentes said she was frustrated with the process. “I was truly surprised to see how early this landscaping went in,” she said, questioning why the developers would change a landscape plan already approved by the city.

“We approved a plan, and the plan is meant to bring harmony to the neighbourhood,” Coun. Garry Litke said. “It doesn’t seem very friendly, very inviting … I don’t have a huge problem with the street, but the issue I have is thinking of the people who have to live there.”

“Evidently they’ve got that place fully rented, so they (future residents) really don’t care what we think of it,” Coun. Mike Pearce said, adding he felt the developers were trying to keep water conservation top of mind.

Pearce moved to postpone the vote, allowing the developer time to work with staff to consider lower-maintenance options like artificial turf. Council voted in favour of postponement, with Litke the lone opponent.