A contentious issue in the community proved to be contentious among Penticton council and staff as well.
The proposed zoning amendments required for the construction of two apartment towers offering 151 units at 435 Green Avenue West were denied by Penticton city council by way of a split vote Tuesday evening.
Development company Broadstreet Properties had applied for changes to the Official Community Plan (OCP) and current zoning restrictions to build two six-storey apartment towers on the property at 435 Green Avenue West, previously owned by the late Penticton businessman and philanthropist David E. Kampe.
Broadstreet Properties had bought the Kampe Estate for $4.5 million and applied for rezoning in March 2021.
The proposed development will not go any further after council rejected the requests with a 3-3 vote. Motions require a majority vote for approval. Normally, a split vote would not occur but Penticton council has been down a member since Jake Kimberley left a vacant seat after suffering a stroke in July 2020.
Councillors Campbell Watt, Judy Sentes and Julius Bloomfied were all in favour of the development, mainly citing a need for rental properties in the community.
Mayor John Vassilaki, Coun. Katie Robinson and Coun. Frank Regehr were all opposed to the development, mainly due to the density of the project and concerns around traffic, privacy and more heard from nearby residents.
Penticton city staff was recommending that council move forward with the applications and give them second and third readings.
The city’s director of development services Blake Laven told council that staff believed the proposal to be very suitable for the area, despite a vocal group of nearby residents saying otherwise.
“Staff is of the opinion that this is a very appropriate site for mid-rise construction,” Laven said. “Having this property here is a really good buffer for other development and it’s in an area where there’s other large format retail and other multi-family development.”
Laven noted that the OCP aims to make the most efficient use of the land available, which this proposal would have done, he said. He also said the proposal would help fill the city’s need for rental housing given the current vacancy rate. Penticton’s rental vacancy rate in 2020 was 1 per cent, the lowest it’s been since 2007.
“This property is going to be developed likely one way or the other,” said Laven. “This is a very unique property and it does lend itself to the type of development that is coming forward… there’s no technical reason not to support it.”
Staff and council held a public hearing Monday night where they heard the concerns of many nearby residents regarding the proposal.
Laven told council that this was the first time this kind of public engagement was used for this type of development and that council should use public feedback as one of the factors in their decision but ultimately “council should be making decisions in the best interest of the entire community.”
Despite staff’s presentation, the mayor and two council members weren’t sold.
Coun. Sentes, however, was in support of the proposal. She was the first to voice her approval of the project, saying that Kampe would likely approve of the proposal despite what some have said. “I don’t think he would have been that opposed, in fact I suspect he had a hand in some of it (being sold to a developer),” Sentes said.
Coun. Watt was perhaps the most vocal about his support of the project. “The reason that our rental rates are so high is because we don’t have any supply to meet the demand,” Watt said. “These type of facilities helps meet the demand.”
“Our staff has done a great job at siphoning through what really matters and putting forward a great proposal.”
Coun. Bloomfield struggled with the decision but ultimately decided approving the proposal would be in the best interest of the community. He also feared having to wait for another proposal if council rejected the current application.
“If we reject this one how much longer do we wait for the next idea to come along,” he said.
Coun. Bloomfield said he “fully understands” concerns of nearby residents despite supporting the project. “I want to talk a little bit about the NIMBY attitude,” he said. “We’re all NIMBY’s… none of us like to see change in our immediate neighbourhood because we don’t know what that change will ultimately be like.”
Coun. Bloomfield said the results of a public consultation survey showed that the majority of those against the development lived within close proximity, where respondents further from the property were split nearly 50/50.
“As council it’s our mandate to listen to everyone,” he said.
Coun. Robinson was the first to speak against the proposal, saying she believes the proposal to be too dense for the neighbourhood and that council has a duty to home-owners to uphold the OCP to protect property values.
“Purchasing a home is probably the most important and expensive decision that people make in a lifetime and people have a right to be in involved in any decision that affects that investment,” she said. “I don’t believe this is NIMBYism, I think this is the democratic way to conduct business.”
Robinson concluded her thoughts by saying she hopes a “happy medium” development is eventually brought forward.
Coun. Regehr was also against the proposal, calling it a “huge disruptive development for that area.” Regehr also said Penticton is on track to grow its housing supply at a far quicker pace than is outlined in the OCP and questioned the need for a development of the proposed size.
Mayor John Vassilaki had similar thoughts to Regehr, saying a development of that size would be “harmful” to the neighbourhood and create “anxiety” among nearby residents. “I won’t be supporting it at the size it came forward with,” he said.
The Western News has reached out to Broadstreet Properties for comment.