Mayor Garry Litke was one of the few on Penticton city council to speak out against an OCP amendment allowing development in the Spiller and Reservoir Road areas, but he wasn’t alone in his opposition, as residents filled council chambers to standing room only Monday night.
Litke said he has been concerned about the northeast sector extension since 2007, suggesting it equated to urban sprawl.
He echoed many of the concerns aired by residents during the public hearing, including the possibility of wilderness interface fires and an oversupply of residential areas in Penticton.
Up to 1,000 homes could be constructed in the area, split between two development blocks covering almost 300 hectares.
“I think we have enough inventory in our marketplace currently to satisfy demand,” he said, listing developments already on the books in the upper Columbia, Wiltse and Valleyview areas as well as the Penticton Indian Band’s Skaha Hills project.
“According to the growth estimates of our community, it should satisfy any demand for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Litke also said it would be a significant tax burden for Penticton residents as roads, sewer, water and other infrastructure would need to be built in the area or brought up to municipal standards.
“We have existing infrastructure that could support a lot more densification,” adding that development areas included in the northeast sector plan would have to leapfrog agricultural areas.
“This is not going to be an extension of Penticton’s boundaries, it is going to be the creation of a whole new community up on the hillside.”
Other council members were unconvinced, and the plan passed with only Litke and Coun. Judy Sentes in opposition.
Coun. Wes Hopkin said that while the residents had valid concerns, they would be addressed through the planning process.
David Kozier, whose family owns land at the end of Todd Road, said he couldn’t see how this development would benefit the people of Penticton.
“There are a lot of areas where Penticton could grow that make more sense. I don’t see the benefit for the people of the entire city,” said Kozier, who was also concerned the proposal showed a possibility of Todd Road being extended through his family property to make an entrance to the area.
Ingrid Schellenberg, who lives at the intersection of Todd and Naramata roads, was also concerned about the possibility of increased traffic through the area and the densification of the hillside, which she said would affect a thriving wildlife population and destroy the very views that tourists go to the Naramata Bench to see.
“They don’t come to admire the development on the hillside,” said Schellenberg, pointing out that there is a herd of 60 to 80 elk roaming the area, along with deer, bear, coyotes and other wildlife.
“There is a plethora of wildlife up there you can’t imagine,” she added, admitting that she didn’t want to see the area around her home developed.
“I don’t want it in my backyard. If I don’t speak up for my backyard I don’t know who will.”
Though council voted to accept the amendment, it may be years before any homes are built in the area defined by the northeast sector plan.
But developers can now begin the process, according to Anthony Haddad, director of development services.
A cost of growth analysis will also be required, showing how the infrastructure for the proposed development will be funded.
Haddad said there is no way of predicting what the costs to the city will be yet though upgrades will be needed to roads, sewer, water and other infrastructure.
“All the services in this area will need to be to municipal standards,” said Haddad, adding that what portion the city and developer would be responsible for would “be agreed upon once a proposal is submitted to council.”