Refund could revive Penticton project

City approves granting credit for developer of stalled Winnipeg Avenue project

Hope has been raised once again that work will soon restart on the partially completed apartment project on Winnipeg Avenue, stalled for four years.

Singla Brothers Ltd., the owners of the property, have come forward to request a new building permit to continue work on the six-year-old project, but were hoping the City of Penticton would give them a credit on the unused portion of their original building permit.

“There seems to be some rationale for credit on the unused portion of the originally paid fees towards the new building permit application, purely based on the applicant’s value for money received for the original building permit fees,” said Anthony Haddad, director of development services.

He recommended that council grant the request to return $15,885 from the original, lapsed building permit, which contained nearly $48,000 in fees. The 2012 building permit is valued at $65,000 based on an estimated construction value of $5 million.

Work had begun on the six-storey, 40-unit apartment building, but came to a halt in 2008 when the bottom fell out of the housing market. Since then, the skeleton of the unfinished building, complete with a large construction crane, has marred the skyline of downtown Penticton.

“It’s been a point of concern for many residents, not just living in that neighbourhood, but driving through that neck of the woods or seeing that crane from any part of town,” said Coun. Andrew Jakubeit.

He supported giving Singla Brothers Ltd. the credit, but only at the time of completion of the project.

“If the applicant is coming forward and saying, ‘I am now prepared to move forward on this project,’ anything we can do to … ensure this project comes to fruition, would be a benefit to the entire community.”

There had been hopes raised previously, with the owners seeking modifications to the design to make it more financially viable.

Though she also agreed with providing the refund, Coun. Judy Sentes said the earlier false starts made it “imperative” that the refund only be given when the project was completed.

“We have been told before that, ‘We are going to go forward’ and then not. ‘We are going to go forward if you do this for us’ and then not,” said Sentes.

Coun. Garry Litke supported Singla Bros., saying that despite problems, they had acted more responsibly than some developers.

“I know there have been a lot of complaints, but there have been other developers who have simply left town and left us with the eyesore,” said Litke. “There are a couple of places around town that are now fenced and there’s no hope for remediation or improvement of these properties.”

Council voted unanimously to refund the fees upon completion, hoping that would provide an extra incentive for the developer to restart the project.