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Housing shortage beats out neighbourhood charm in Penticton heritage plan

‘What type of heritage are we protecting here?’ asked councillor Isaac Gilbert
Lakeshore Drive is Penticton’s most iconic and most visited street. (Google Maps)

Penticton council rejected a plan Tuesday, Feb. 7, that would preserve “neighbourhood charm” when new developments are proposed within the city’s most historic areas.

Citing a current housing shortage and affordability crisis, local politicians opted to rebuff building restrictions proposed on Lakeshore Drive and in the Cherryland area — previously referred to by staff as Penticton’s “two most charming neighbourhoods.”

To protect long-standing heritage, limiting new buildings to 1.5 storeys in height and establishing consistent lot widths were among the proposed zoning restrictions offered up to council, in each of the select neighbourhoods.

“My stance on this is that zoning does restrict people to live in a certain area,” said Coun. Isaac Gilbert. “If you can’t afford a single-family detached home, this what this (proposal) is saying…then you’re not welcome in that neighbourhood.”

Staff began collecting feedback from residents in each of the aforementioned areas in September 2022, following an endorsement from the city’s previous council, led by former mayor John Vassilaki.

The plan is referred to at city hall as the Neighbourhood Charm Project.

READ ALSO: Keep ‘the charm’ in Penticton: New project aims to preserve Lakeshore Drive’s history

Although public participation was limited, preserving heritage by implementing new building restrictions was generally supported by residents.

“What they’re saying here is that they want to have a historical neighbourhood, but they’re not bringing up character within this,” Gilbert said. “They’re just basically saying that we do not have wanted to have multi-family housing in this area and we’re not here to protect what this area looks like.”

Centred around Windsor Avenue, city staff say current residents in the Cherryland neighbourhood were “very” supportive of limiting new developments within the neighbourhood’s vicinity to 1.5 storeys in height.

It was also noted that the post-war development is Penticton’s earliest residential neighbourhood — a part of the city further questioned by Gilbert.

“If we’re going to talk about heritage, that neighbourhood on Windsor (Avenue) I’m pretty sure it’s Tom Ellis’, the one person who sat there and took part of Penticton away from the Penticton Indian Band,” Gilbert stated.

“So, what type of heritage are we protecting here? Are protecting colonial heritage in our community, or are we going to move forward with better reconciliation.”

On Lakeshore Drive, meanwhile, staff proposed to increase the front yard setback to 10 metres for new developments.

A total of 14 current residents on the iconic Penticton street provided feedback, with most showing support for the project.

But limited public participation appeared to stall any momentum the heritage plan was hoping to have with the city’s newly-elected council.

“As we sit and discuss over and over the issues we are facing with affordability…it actually hampers the ability to grow,” said Coun. Campbell Watt.

“And we’re speaking specifically with a couple of areas where it makes the most sense to grow.”

Watt declined to send the heritage project to a Feb. 28, public hearing, instead putting forward a motion to take the information gathered in an effort to update the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

His motion passed after a 6-1 vote, with Coun. James Miller opposed.

With staff’s bylaw changes rejected, council’s vote means a future review of the OPC, which will look at housing needs as a whole.

READ ALSO: Carpaccio to cubicles: Office space planned for historic Penticton restaurant


About the Author: Logan Lockhart

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