Gas station proposal fuels concerns in Penticton

Penticton council gives conditional approval for PetroCan station despite opposition to its impact on city's northern gateway

The plan to build a new gas station on a triangular corner lot at Westminster Avenue and Eckhardt has faced some strong opposition from both staff and council in Penticton, but after a public hearing on Monday, council voted to give the rezoning application conditional approval.

When the rezoning proposal first came before council, on April 2, the staff report recommended against it, citing a number of reasons, including traffic concerns. But a key concern was that as a prominent lot on the northern gateway to Penticton, the proposed Petro-Canada station, with its trademark red logo and large awning, would not be suitable for that area.

Complicating the issue was that the intention of the applicant was to relocate the existing Petro-Canada operation a little farther down Eckhardt to the new site, possibly leaving another contaminated area to add to the city’s list of brownfield sites.

Council attached a number of conditions to the potential rezoning, including a revised traffic planning assessment and architectural plans for the city to review. But when the rezoning came to public hearing on Monday, concerns were all about how it would make the city look.

Loraine Stephanson wondered why council chose to ignore the staff recommendation not to approve.

“Is Penticton a beautiful city per se, or are we just coasting on the beauty of the natural surroundings? Or is it time for us as a city to start catching up to what our natural surroundings look like?” she asked. “The gateways to the city are very important and that feature should reflect OCP guidelines for the area. “We should really be taking a long hard look at the north gateway to our city and whether or not this project is appropriate.”

“It should be a landmark building,” Stephanson said, concerned that a Petro-Canada representative seemed reluctant to talk about any changes to the design, especially the lighted signs with the bright red Petro-Canada logo.

“This site involves curb appeal,” she said. “It’s a key point of entry to the city.”

The proponent, Gary Johal, said concerns were groundless, and an architect had already been hired to design a station in keeping with the city’s preferences. Asking for it to be shown via Google Maps Street View on the council monitors, Johal explained that a Petro-Canada at 80th and Scott Road in Surrey was an example of what can be done.

“We’re not using any PetroCan design. The design is totally different, it won’t even look like a gas station,” said Johal, explaining that he plans to have better landscaping than what the city currently maintains, though the station will still have to display the two trademarked Petro-Canada logos.

With Johal acknowledging the city’s concerns, council voted to give the application third reading and allow it to move to the development permit stage. However, several of the councillors commented that they are not setting aside concerns that the gas station design be an attractive addition to the area.

“I am very sensitive that this is our gateway and will be looking for significant changes that will be in keeping with our community plan,” said Coun. Judy Sentes. “This concept has to come a long way in order to garner my continued support.”

According to Anthony Haddad, director of development services, Johal will now need to providing a revised traffic impact assessment and meet Ministry of Transport conditions as well as a more detailed architectural plan.

“One of the conditions is the requirement to submit development permit drawings. Council will be able to review the development permit for the character of the building prior to the adoption of the rezoning bylaw,” said Haddad. “That will come back to council once the applicant has provided the information.”


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