Our unique community of 32,000 is nestled between two mountain ranges and two lakes. It has limited space for expansion. We have only two major north-south corridors — Channel Parkway and Main Street.
The city has plans for revamping the Official Community Plan, not that they are following that plan anyway. I suspect they want to change zoning laws that are impeding high density growth and this planning department’s vision for the future.
City hall wants vibrant growth. This means more money for city coffers, more construction jobs (at least for every two year project) and more money for businesses who supply materials for the construction. Higher population means more customers for businesses in the city.
An alternate view
City hall should consider that for every dollar that flows into city coffers, just as much money or more will eventually flow out thus requiring higher taxes.
A higher density population means more money will be spent on upgrading infrastructure and on increased goods and services to keep up with high density growth. More traffic congestion will require more money to fix that problem (if it can be fixed). We have no room to expand many of our streets. Many of us who retired to Penticton did so because we saw how rampant expansion leads to an erosion of quality of life.
The city population is slightly decreasing and rental accommodations are needed, but these units are not going to help keep families here. Middle income families and single people are leaving because there are not enough good paying jobs to support a family. Rather than pushing through more high density construction projects to keep the economy going, the city should consider trying to actively recruit moderate sized, environmentally friendly, sustainable businesses. These could provide year round, good paying jobs to support families.
There is a tipping point beyond which a small sized town can remain a good stress free place to live, or, become a traffic congested mini-New Westminster.
I believe there are a few key points for any city hall to keep in mind in the future:
1. Green spaces are sacred. Don’t touch them.
2. Any decisions made should have a long reaching positive impact on the city — looking 20 years down the road not just the next two years.
3. High density projects should not negatively affect the neighbouring community. (The Kinney project for example)
4. High density comes at a cost. Does the long-term cost justify the short-term gain?
5. Don’t change zoning laws at the whim of the developers. You are breaking trust with the community, the people who hired you. Any changes in zoning laws should require the majority of the nearby community to agree. If more than 200 people show up at a meeting to complain about the change, listen to them.
6. Densification of housing around the malls was purposed to help cut down on traffic. They thought that people would not need cars. This is a fine ideal for Vancouver, but it is not working for Penticton with a limited bus service. People still need their cars and will use them. The actual result is the densification of traffic around the malls. It is becoming more and more difficult to make a left hand turn across traffic on feeder streets around the malls. This policy of densification needs to be re-evaluated. Projects that don’t allow enough parking are going to create a problem with street parking. Smaller projects throughout the community would be a better solution.
7. The city should set a height limit on future projects (four storeys). Ask the people if they want Penticton to become a place of high rises and traffic congestion or, a place to stay forever. The city planners’ vision of what Penticton should become may not be what the majority of the people who live in the city want.
8. No project should be allowed to negatively affect someone’s view. What the city did with the Kinney project was a slap in the face to the neighbours and a rude awakening for the people of the city. Now the city can steal the views of anyone. This bylaw should be included in any new community plan.
9. Compromise and respect for the people of this community would go a long way to preventing conflict.
If you have any views on these problems, please contact the city planning department, the mayor and the city councilors (email, phone, letter).
Make your views known. Don’t sit back and allow others to decide on Penticton’s future or assume that city hall will know what you are thinking.
Let them know. If you don’t, city hall and the developers will make the decision for you and you might not like the results.