(Black Press file)

Rally opposing Naramata Bench housing project prompts reaction from developer

Today, local farmers, residents will be driving their tractors down Main Street in opposition

A group of Penticton and Naramata farmers and residents will be driving their tractors down Main Street today (Sept. 15) in opposition of a proposed housing development.

Canadian Horizons has proposed a 320-plus home development in the Naramata Bench area, at 1050 Spiller Road.

Those opposed believe a development of this scale isn’t suited for this area, and that it could have a “detrimental impact on Penticton’s world-class agricultural, wine and tourism region.”

Months earlier, this resulted in an online petition being formed which has garnered 8,361 signatures.

READ MORE: Locals vocal about proposed 300-plus home development in Naramata Bench

Now, farmers, residents, entrepreneurs and business owners plan on driving a train of tractors down Main Street, and parking in front of City Hall, where they will voice their opinions of the project. They are set to arrive at City Hall at approx. 3:00 p.m. Tuesday.

“We are in favour of smart and sustainable development aligned with the guiding principles of Penticton’s Official Community Plan. What Canadian Horizons’ has proposed fails on all counts. Their plans are out of touch, out of place and motivated by dollar signs, not the long-term best interests of our community,” said resident John Bilodeau in a news release Monday.

Bilodeau further explained that they are gathering in a safe and socially distanced manner to raise awareness of “what is at stake” if council allows the developer to proceed.

Bilodeau encourages people who share these concerns to get involved.

In reaction to the proposed rally, Canadian Horizons Vice President Nathan Hildebrand said he is impressed by the idea and the enthusiasm, and is glad to see people taking an interest in the proposal. He said he can appreciate that some people have concerns with the project.

That being said, Hildebrand said he is suprised by the reaction, saying that what Canadian Horizons has proposed is nothing new to the community. He pointed to other developments by their group such as Sendero Canyon, which he hailed as a success.

“We are quite proud of how that neighbourhood has evolved and we look forward to improving on it with our next proposal at 1050 Spiller Road,” he said.

The Spiller Road project, Hildebrand explained, has been in the works since they purchased the 160-acre property in 2005. In those 15 years he said there have been “many opportunities for public input and participation and feedback.”

The development of a Neighbourhood Concept Plan (NCP) in 2010 was paired with several open houses, which Hildebrand explained was eventually approved by city council in February 2014 public hearing, in a 5-2 vote.

More recently, in 2019, Hildebrand explained that this part of the city, which includes the Spiller Road development area, was identified by the City as a Future Growth Area in their eventually adopted Official Community Plan.

“Our proposal is exactly what is shown in the OCP. It is exactly what was adopted in the Spiller/Resevoir NCP from 2014,” said Hildebrand.

(Story continues below)

In 2019, the Spiller Road development area was identified by the City of Penticton as a Future Growth Area in their eventually adopted Official Community Plan. (City of Penticton)

That being said, Canadian Horizons is modifying their project slightly following comments received by the public, neighbours, and City staff.

“I think everyone will be impressed by the comprehensive look and feel of the proposal’s design concept once it is completed,” said the vice president.

Hildebrand believes the development will be a positive addition to the City.

“In addition to providing much needed, affordable housing for families, this proposal will bring much needed City services to the area and fire projection that is currently not available,” he said.

“It will bring approximately 2000 construction jobs over the approximately 5 to 10 year build out of the proposal. It will bring new parks, 6 km of new walking and biking trails, and over 80 acres of environmentally sensitive land being permanently preserved and protected.”

Hildebrand also said it will bring millions of dollars in new taxes and fees to the City of Penticton, in what he estimates is a $100M investment into the city.

“What we are proposing will enable everyday, hard working people of this City and future families to the City, an opportunity to live and afford a house and raise their families in this beautiful part of Penticton. I am really excited and passionate about that.“

Organizers of the planned tractor rally explained that in the Fall, individuals from the community will be “present(ing) evidence of the substantial risks” that the Spiller Road project poses to local agriculture, tourism, the environment and wildlife, to City council.

This story will continue following the rally Tuesday afternoon.

READ MORE: Letter: Concerns over proposed development in Naramata Bench


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