A contingent of local farmers plan to descend on Penticton City Hall Tuesday while driving their tractors in protest of a proposed residential subdivision on the Naramata Bench.
Local resident and vineyard owner John Bilodeau says 15-20 farmers, as well as local residents, entrepreneurs and business owners, will voice their concerns about the proposed development.
Vancouver-based real estate developer Canadian Horizons is pitching a 350-unit subdivision, ranging from single-family lots to townhomes, on 163 acres of land near Penticton, according to its website.
Bilodeau says it’s an inappropriate location for an urban subdivision given the Naramata Bench is a world-renowned agri-tourism region, surrounded by rolling vineyards and orchards.
“We’ve worked very hard here to create a brand for the Naramata Bench and we feel that people aren’t coming here to see large subdivisions carved out of the side of hills, they are coming to see the orchards, and the grapes, the rolling hills, the vineyards,” he said.
There is also a proposed business park and agricultural land use designated in the plan, as well as parks and trails “for the whole community to enjoy,” the developer says.
Bilodeau says opponents are also concerned about the proposed development’s impact on the environment and wildlife, and well as traffic congestion.
“Naramata Road is already a problem, and the entry to this large subdivision is going to be right at 880 Naramata Road and the locals refer to that as accident corner, so that’s an issue,” he said.
Blake Laven, City of Penticton director of development services, says the land in question is zoned ‘Country Residential’ and ‘Mobile Home Park’ and is designed for urban development.
“The city’s new Official Community Plan (OCP) supports the development of a residential neighbourhood in this area,” Laven said in an email.
However, the city is still in the process of receiving information from the proponent before staff will craft a recommendation to council on a proposed zoning amendment, he said.
“Depending on when the requested information is received from Canadian Horizons, we could see this item before Council as early as November or early in the New Year,” Laven said.
Once the land use amendment bylaw is introduced, the city will host an open house where opponents can air their grievances, as well as host a public hearing, he said.
Bilodeau is hopeful local residents and business owners can convince city council to block the high-density development from being built.
“We are 100 per cent behind the OCP, we think it’s a great plan, but this is not ‘Country Residential’ that Canadian Horizons is proposing, so we are trying to stop them from convincing the city to re-zone it,” he said.
Canadian Horizons vice-president Nathan Hildebrand says the proposed development on 1050 Spiller Road is “consistent” with the city’s 2019 Official Community Plan (OCP) and 2014 Neighbourhood Concept Plan for the area.
“Our proposed development is focused on providing much-needed affordable and attainable, family-oriented housing options to everyday people living in Penticton or who are looking to relocate to this beautiful part of the Okanagan,” he said in an email.
“This area of the City of Penticton has long been identified as a future growth area as far back as the early 2000s.”
Hildebrand adds the proposal would bring approximately 2,000 constructions jobs to the city, new park space, walking and biking trails, over 80 acres of sensitive land being permanently preserved and protected, as well as millions of dollars in new taxes and fees to the City of Penticton.
“Overall, this proposal is an approximate $100 million investment into this city.”
The farmers, taking a brief break from fruit and grape harvest, will turn down Main Street from Eckhart at approximately 2:45 pm on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The rally will be held at 3:00 p.m.