Penticton property development grabs school board’s attention

Trustees careful about wading into what could be a contentious debate

School trustees are being careful not to pick sides ahead of an upcoming public hearing on an effort to change a Penticton property’s land-use designation from parkland to residential.

City council will consider the request to repurpose 175 Kinney Avenue at a meeting on Monday night.

An engineering firm acting on behalf of the property owners contacted the Okanagan Skaha School District in advance to seek confirmation that local schools would be able to accommodate any children who move into a residential development on the site.

Malcolm McNaughton, a planner from Ecora Engineering and Resource Group, told the school district the Kinney Avenue owners have plans that show a single-family home on the site could be knocked down and replaced with three four-storey condominium buildings with a total of 75 units, plus 15 at-grade townhomes.

However, “there is no developer on board (and) no plans to move forward with construction of any kind,” he noted in the April email, because the property owners are simply seeking to rezone and redesignate the property to help it sell.

The 9,100-square-metre site, valued this year by BC Assessment at $1.5 million, is next door to Parkway Elementary, which was 68 kids over its 200-student capacity as of March 31.

Trustee Ginny Manning suggested the school board send Epcora a “general, over-arching letter” to confirm only that the district would figure out a way to take in any children  living in the development, if and when it goes ahead.

“From my perspective, I appreciate they have asked and considered the school district. It doesn’t always happen,” Manning said.

A report on the rezoning application prepared by city staff noted the property owners met with neighbours in October and received 63 responses, some of which included concerns about increased traffic and loss of view.

Trustee Tracy St. Claire said the district ought to make its feelings known on issues like traffic, but refrain from weighing in on larger land-use issues.

“As to whether we have a comment as to whether it’s parkland or medium-density (residential), I don’t think that’s within our purview,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting, the committee also received a request from the builder of Skaha Hills to confirm that busing would be available for students who eventually move into that 600-home development.

Facilities director Doug Gorcak said there is already a school-bus stop below the development near the highway, and as families move in, the district would consider adding a route through the new community.