Harvest season may be over, but a north Penticton neighbourhood has a fine bumper crop of new protest signs.
Walking around the 700 blocks of Churchill and Alexander Avenues, the signs are easy to spot, with one or two in each yard protesting the proposed subdivision of a lot and the construction of a duplex on each of the new lots.
The developer, Bruce Schoenne of Schoenne Homes, said he had put up his own signs on the lot he plans to develop at 701 Churchill Ave., though they appeared to be missing on Wednesday. His advised passersby that duplexes are allowed and suggested that his project would allow new residents to get into the neighbourhood at an affordable price.
It all comes to a head on Nov. 3, when a public hearing for Schoenne’s proposal is scheduled to take place in city council chambers.
Bernie Bathgate is one of the chief organizers of the protest. He and a contingent of his neighbours will be at the public hearing Nov. 3 to let council know about their concerns directly and deliver a petition with, according to Bathgate, about 100 signatures.
These are just the immediate neighbours, Bathgate said, adding they didn’t take the petition anywhere else.
“It vastly alters the character of the neighbourhood,” said Bathgate, who is concerned that the modern design of the duplexes will be a harsh contrast to the smaller, older-style homes in the area.
“It creates two lots that are 15 per cent below the minimum standard lot,” said Bathgate, adding that he feels the Official Community Plan advises preserving the character of neighbourhoods like theirs.
“We are just feeling like it deserves protecting,” said Bathgate. “Nobody here is against development. It’s just this doesn’t fit the character at all, it’s just gone too deep.”
Schoenne said he is just trying to make the best use of the property he can, and create homes that can sell for an affordable price.
He doesn’t feel the subdivided lots will be too small. Rather, he said it is an efficient use of the available land, increasing density rather than creating more sprawl.
The alternative to subdividing, Schoenne explained, would be to build a duplex spanning the lot.
“I can put suites in so I have four units. If I subdivide, I have four units. So the density doesn’t change,” said Schoenne, adding that such a building would be more imposing than the two-storey homes he is planning.
“If we imagine something that big and put a pitched roof on it, we now have a monstrosity in the neighbourhood.”
The cost to purchase would be higher, as well, with each side of the duplex selling in the range of $700,000 rather than the $400,000 he expects for the units in his plans.
They won’t be long in selling, either. Brian Cutler, a local real estate agent, calls it the most desirable area of Penticton.
Schoenne said he already has 10 expressions of interest in purchasing one of the four proposed units.
“You can’t stress enough how many people want to get into this area,” said Cutler. “I call it the Kitsilano of Penticton.”
“I believe this is a better solution, given the makeup of the neighbourhood, than an alternative, which is a massive building,” said Schoenne, who notes that he lives nearby on Lakeshore Drive.
“I don’t want to do that to the neighbourhood. I walk by here all the tim,” he said. “It is just as important to me, this neighbourhood, as it is to the people that live around here.”
Bathgate said the neighbourhood is planning to do everything they can to let council know about opposition to the project.
“Really we want to indicate that better than 90 per cent of the immediate neighbours are up in arms about the whole thing,” he said.