The Bluffs at Skaha are being considered for a large parks and recreation area alongside residential housing and forestry grazing.
The area, formally known as 3200 Evergreen Dr., is part of the Wiltse Area Structure Plan. It is located in the southeast area of the city after the 300-acre property was purchased by the city earlier this summer.
The Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park is a popular tourist destination, especially for recreational climbers. The proposed official community plan for the area features low and medium density residential designations, a sizeable forestry grazing designation, and a large parks and recreation designation featuring a corridor across the expanse of the property.
The zoning process is the first step in creating a recreational area at the Bluffs of Skaha. Land owners in the region are undergoing a voluntary dedication process with B.C. Parks to transfer private land for public use in the 64-hectares space allotted for the recreation zone. The city stated that it could take up to a year for this process to be carried out.
Councillor Judy Sentes said during the Aug. 21 council meeting that the suggested zoning for the property would solve the ongoing issue landowners in the area are facing with people rock climbing on private property. According to Lyndie Hill, owner of Hoodoo Adventure Company Ltd., their organization was informed of the rezoning process but it is not cause for concern.
“It should be business as usual, as far as we’ve been told,” said Hill.
Hoodoo Adventure Company Ltd. offers guided climbing tours within Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park. While she can’t speak to those who venture onto private property during their climbs, Hill feels that zoning may help with the issue.
“When people are out using areas that they’re not supposed to be in, then it causes issues for the industry overall. So it’s always good to have a definition of the area,” said Hill.
Randy Brown, public affairs manager for Penticton Search and Rescue, believes their operations will also be unaffected by the suggested zoning. In the past, there have been instances of climbers needing to be rescued within the Skaha Bluffs area.
“Most of the people that do frequent the area are generally very responsible and safe in terms of climbing. But, it doesn’t matter where people are in the area or the zone, if something happens we’re there to help,” said Brown.
Two single-family units and a 20-room tourist accommodation are also proposed within the forestry grazing zone of the property.
The remainder of the site would remain undeveloped. The proposed residential area would allow a mix between single-family and townhouse multi-family units, totalling 40 lots. Developers are asking for the approval of the proposed zoning so that Phase I of the project can commence.
Features of the land in its current state were taken into consideration when coming up with the proposed zoning to ensure development is respectful of the vegetation and wildlife, and safe regarding the slope of the hillside. The city stated the public was also consulted extensively through engagement activities and an electoral approval process.
A public hearing and first reading of the land use plan and development permit areas will be help Sept. 4.