Where do we grow from here? Summerland council and development assistance manager Ian MacIntosh want the community to support a change to a smaller growth area on the Official Community Plan. Consultants have been hired to gather community input and to develop growth boundary options that accommodate growth, presumably for the life of the OCP.
About 75 people at three workshops were asked to describe what was most compelling about Summerland. The consultants said the answers were remarkably consistent. Access to nature and agriculture and the small-town neighborliness of the community was the consensus of the three workshops. They expected growth would be at replacement pace: that density would occur in the downtown core with some additional in Lower Town, Trout Creek and South Victoria, and that agricultural land, in general, and therefore Agricultural Land Reserve land, in particular, would be retained.
I have heard this view at public hearings, open house presentations of the municipality and public meetings on development issues, yet councils have consistently approved rezoning and development applications opposed by the community.
So, no surprise, when the consultants presented three growth boundary proposals and two required that lands now zoned ALR be rezoned for dense development. Participants at the presentation questioned why the proposals did not follow community input that had stressed the value of agricultural land to the future of Summerland as a small town with a beautiful, outdoor, quality of life. Ian Macintosh said that to get density downtown, the “trade off” was losing ALR properties.
There was a zoning review in 2012 which gave single-family, sewered lots the ability to subdivide, allowed multi-family zones and allowed for carriage houses. Therefore the downtown core already has the tools for densifying: sewered corridors connecting to downtown.
Community members suggested a fourth option combining density in the town core, retaining ALR land and focusing on Summerland’s existing strengths (agriculture, retirees, tourism, sport and others) when planning for growth. The community vision is not a Summerland city surrounded by rural agriculture. The vision is a patchwork. If it is not a patchwork then ALR lands will continue to be included in an ever-expanding downtown core as the growth boundary is amended and re-amended.
The bylaws approving higher density development and the areas where this density can occur have already been passed so it appears that the only function of revising the growth boundary is to create an opportunity to remove certain agricultural properties from ALR designation by amending the OCP. Once again, an expensive consultant is used to gather “public input” which was never needed but will be cited as vital to the decision.