Penticton city council has again delayed a decision on a proposal that would see the site of the former Three Gables Hotel cleaned up a little.
Council was cool to the idea of turning the long vacant lot into a partially finished parking area when it first came before them in August, and remained cool to the developed plan brought forward on Nov. 16.
Coun. Tarik Sayeed went as far to call the proposal “appalling” and suggested that if council were to approve it, they would be letting the l
andowner realize maximum potential from the property with minimal investment. He felt more could, and should, be done with the land.
“This land is full of opportunities that can benefit the owner, the neighbours and others,” said Sayeed.
The series of lots that make up the site have been vacant for 16 years, ever since the Three Gables Hotel burned down. In August, landowner Raj Randhawa came before council pleading for a variance allowing him to turn the lots, which face onto the 400 block of Main Street, into a formal parking area without meeting the usual standards of a paved surface, landscaping and irrigation.
Randhawa argued that if he were forced to follow the full regulations, it would make the properties less attractive to prospective developer
s than it already was. Under the proposal, Randhawa would not have to pave the lot, but would need to grade, level and treat the surface along with lighting the area and improving the three-metre landscaped section currently in place.
Kerri Milton, executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association, spoke on behalf of Randhawa, who did not attend the Nov. 16 meeting. Milton said a number of nearby businesses support the unsurfaced parking lot proposal, preferring that option to the current unattractive condition of the site.
“They just wanted to see it cleaned up,” she said. “There are a variety of business down there that are looking forward to having access to a parking lot nearby.”
Coun. Judy Sentes said she had a different impression of how the business owners viewed the proposal.
“Their anguish is the condition that has been t
here for 16 years. I get the impression that this is not their first choice of what could be happening there, but they see it as their only option,” said Sentes. “A fear that some of them shared with me is that upon approval, the particular proponent in this case will never do anything other than a parking lot.”
Sentes proposed that if council were to approve the variances Randhawa requested, that the permission to use the site as a parking lot be time-limited, to encourage the owner to continue pursuing a more suitable development for Main Street.
Milton relayed an offer from the owner to sell both his properties in the area, quoting from an email.
“If the council is not for it, please put on the table that if they are interested in buying the property to put a development on that site, they can have it, they can have both Main Street and Martin Street as well. I will move the liquor store, I have no issues with that,” Milton read from Randhawa’s email.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the city has no plans, at the moment, to take Randhawa up on his offer.
Council voted to send the matter back to staff for more information about a temporary use permit option, with Couns. Max Picton, Helena Konanz and Campbell Watt opposed to the deferment.