Kinney Avenue hearing turns into heated debate

Council voted not to rezone the 2.25 acre lot at 175 Kinney Ave. for an apartment complex.

Council’s decision on the future of a Kinney Avenue property probably didn’t satisfy the more than 100 residents of the area that turned out for a public hearing Monday evening.

In a Solomon-like decision, council voted not to rezone the 2.25 acre lot at 175 Kinney Ave. for an apartment complex, but did vote to remove its designation in Penticton’s Official Community Plan as a future park, which it has been classed as for 26 years.

However, the city hasn’t been able to meet the purchase price of the owners of the property, and after two years of negotiations and offers, they asked to have the parks designation removed and the property rezoned to make it more sellable.

It is listed on the B.C. Assessment rolls at $1,309,000, though according to Malcolm McNaughton, who represents the owners, the fair market value, properly zoned and without the future park designation, is much higher.

The public hearing portion of the meeting grew heated at times, with more than 30 speakers, mostly residents of Cherry Lane Towers, expressing their concerns about increased traffic, the need for parkland as well as the loss of their view and possible devaluation of their condo units, if a four-storey 90-unit condominium was built on the property.

Many said that they had consulted with the city before purchase and had been assured the lot would become a park.

“Removing parkland from any city should not be taken lightly,” said David Worth.

Other actions by the city, he continued, indicated a desire to increase the number of young families living here.

“Removal of any land designated as parks and recreation is totally contrary to what one would expect to happen with an increase in population.”

Marlene Pixley said she enjoyed watching the children playing on the school fields and in Lions’ Park.

“The change in the zoning is a threat to our peace and contentment. It is also a threat to our home values,” said Pixley. “I feel betrayed and I feel wounded by this. I believe the decision is about money.”

But as emotional as some of the speakers became, the tension increased when council entered into their own debate on the changes. Coun. Katie Robinson said granting the changes requested by the property owners would be betraying the vision set out by previous councils in the OCP and the original parks master plan.

“I remain firmly committed to acquiring park land. It’s already been waiting for 26 years, so I can wait a bit longer,” said Robinson. “This would be a catastrophic loss to our community.”

Other councillors were less certain that it was denying the owners’ petition, or that it would be a good investment for the community.

“The city can’t afford to pay for it,” said Coun. John Vassilaki, adding that the owners wanted up to $3.5 million. “We were voted into office to make decisions that are in the best interest of this community, not one group.”

The motion to rezone the land was narrowly defeated, with only Couns. Vassilaki, Judy Sentes and Helena Konanz voting in favour. The situation reversed, though, when a motion to change the OCP designation from park to multi-family residential was put on the table.

Again, Robinson was one of the strongest opponents, arguing that council shouldn’t be making OCP amendments without more public discussion.

“I feel very strongly it would be irresponsible,” said Robinson. “We need to open this up to the entire city.”