Through the mid-’90s, I chaired the initial growth strategy committee with the intent of developing a valley-wide strategy. It was implemented for the protection of the valley’s ecological system and its overall environment, air and water specifically. I was successful on behalf of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen to have negotiated the planning and the cost of the plan to have it endorsed by the Central and the North Okanagan regional districts. Only to have the board of the RDOS vote against the implementation (1995/96) of the collective valley-wide growth plan. Fortunately a southern growth strategy was brought back to the RDOS board again and subsequently endorsed in 2000.
Now we have a plan for just the south end of the valley which cost the RDOS $400,000 to put together. (The City of Penticton paid 40 per cent of the bill.) It was unanimously endorsed by the board (with the exception of the Similkameen directors who opted not to join). After being endorsed by a unanimous vote of the remaining directors, it was declared as a document that we must live by.
The intent of the southern growth plan was to protect the environment by controlling overall growth just from Peachland to the U.S. border. This would be achieved by strictly adhering and not deviating from the regional growth strategy.
Just this month this whole process, which took almost 10 years to complete at a known cost of $400,000, was literally thrown aside by a majority of the directors on the board. I refer to the majority approval of a development around Vaseux Lake, which is now scheduled to go forward to public process and possible approval by that same majority. The said majority included the chair (Mayor Ashton, as chair you are bound to uphold the policies and practices endorsed by the board of directors, and councillors which you have been elected to chair).
The report in the local media on the Vaseux Lake application recorded the chair’s statement in favour of the application to proceed, saying that the growth strategy was just a document: “Thou shalt make you think.” It seems the chair wasn’t thinking about the whole costly purpose why the growth strategy was unanimously implemented under his chairmanship. The chair was also noted to make a comment to the issue of planning, to the effect that any owner of a property should be entitled to do what they want with their property (not verbatim). If this statement is true, then why have costly rules and regulations of planning and zoning, let’s just let everybody build shacks and multi-storey highrises to destroy what we’re all trying to protect since the city was founded. The goal was to control the overall growth of our community, protect property and their values from unsightly and conflicting structures next to them and in more recent years protect the environment and our way of life.
That’s why these regulations were put into place and should be endorsed and enforced by the people we elect to do it for us.