Hockey dorm nets approval

Penticton council grants preliminary approval to seven-storey project

  • Nov. 8, 2011 5:00 p.m.

Score one for developers of the hockey school dormitory proposal.

Penticton council approved second and third readings of the rezoning and supported the development permit application to build a seven-storey building featuring a dorm to service the Okanagan Hockey School and other commercial entities, despite an hour-long public hearing that saw residents air concerns about the transaction.

Robert Wasalasko said pile-driving construction at the South Okanagan Events Centre site caused concrete pads to break on his property — and that was on the other side of Alberni Street, let alone across his back lane.

“I don’t know if the property development is going to cause any more issues with my house,” he said.

Nick Bevanda, a principal with CEI Architecture, said the proponent wanted to clarify a few issues about the project. The dormitory would provide short- and long-term housing accommodations to approximately 150 students of the hockey academy and approximately 50 adults including family members and staff.

“We are sympathetic to the neighbours,” he said, noting construction will not include pile driving.

They sited the project as close to Eckhardt as possible to buffer neighbours, Bevanda said, and allowed for additional access to the sides of the lot in the lane running behind the lots from to Comox Street to Alberni to mitigate traffic. The Ministry of Transportation disallows access from Eckhardt due to the highway designation, he added.

“The exit to your building is right in my building. Everything is going to be in my alley. I’m not opposed to this thing, but a seven-storey building?” Jill Enslow, a Creston Avenue resident, said during the public hearing. “Three or four I could probably live with, but this way I’ll have no sun, no privacy, no mountain view in my backyard.”

Enslow also asked for the architect’s contact information in case construction impacts the structural integrity of her home. “We all have cracks in our walls after the events centre,” she said.

John Race said he was more concerned about the sale price of the lots from 903 to 969 Eckhardt Ave. West. He lives only a few doors down from the proposed dorm, and his most recent B.C. Assessment notice came in at $283,000 for the land alone — when the city sold the nine parcels for $925,000, or just over $100,000 each.

“My concern is the value of my property is going to go down as a result. That’s my land as long as you don’t want it,” he said. “Will my property hold value if you’re giving it away down the street?”

Mayor Dan Ashton tried to assure Race there are no redevelopment plans for remaining lots.

“The city has no plans for further acquisitions,” he said, adding that if the private owners of the four Echhardt lots want to redevelop, it would go through the regular channels. “We don’t have any plans for that whatsoever.”

City development services director Anthony Haddad explained the values as having been reduced partially because the homes on site were demolished and then the parcels were trimmed by 20 per cent to allow additional highway space. One parcel to the east is unsalable because it was carved up significantly by the right-hand turn allowance on Alberni.

Once a 15 to 20 per cent drop in market value is factored in, Haddad said, “you can see the considerable drop in value.”

As they debated the development permit application, Coun. Andrew Jakubeit spoke in favour of the project as an economic generator for Penticton. He estimated the $15 million project could mean $30 million in economic activity.

“We all say we need jobs and have tourism, and this will bring more jobs and will enhance sports tourism,” said Jakubeit, adding that more time doesn’t necessarily mean more revenue from a land sale.

“Waiting for the economy to improve means we don’t get that $30 million impact.”

Coun. Judy Sentes said the dormitory concept is not new to the city, as Okanagan Hockey School organizers have articulated their desires to house students since the academy’s inception. Ultimately the sale and development benefit both the city and the school. “This property is costing us money as it’s sitting there empty,” she said.

Although council was debating the development, Coun. John Vassilaki said he couldn’t vote in favour of issuing the permit because of the sale of city land and the economic investment zones that provides temporary tax breaks gave too much in the way of discounts.

“He’s getting this land for free. I don’t care how they spin it, it’s free,” he said.

“We’re here to talk about the zoning, not the sale,” Ashton said.

“Same thing,” Vassilaki responded.

Vassilaki was the lone opponent to both the rezoning application from small-lot residential to mixed-used commercial second and third readings and council’s support of the development permit application subject to provisions, including the finalization of the land sale.

The final disposition of the lands has been postponed to Nov. 21 due to a typo error in the advertisement as part of the legal notification requirements.