A convoy of tractors slowly made its way through Penticton to city hall Tuesday afternoon in protest of a proposed residential subdivision on the Naramata Bench.
Vancouver-based real estate developer Canadian Horizons is proposing a 350-unit subdivision, ranging from single-family lots to townhomes, on 163 acres of land near Penticton.
But the protesters believe 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.
“The Naramata Bench is often called the Napa of the north,” local resident Marion Kozier said. “Well, with a subdivision, that spoils that whole concept.”
Residents have also voiced concerns about traffic congestion.
“This is not an anti-development message,” local resident Josie Tyabji said. “We all know that responsible development is an important part of any business community.”
However, people want to see the right development in the right places, she added.
“And maintain the agricultural and rural feel that exists in that area,” Tyabji said.
On the front steps of city hall, the mayor and council greeted the tractor rally.
“We just want to send a clear message to everybody here at city hall that we don’t like this project. Do you think you got that message?” local resident John Bilodeau asked.
“Oh absolutely,” Mayor John Vassilaki replied.
Vassilaki also told the crowd that nothing has been brought forward to city council yet, and that city staff is still receiving information about the development.
A land-use amendment bylaw is still required for the high-density development to move forward.
After the amendment has been introduced, the city said it will host a public hearing and an open house.
In an email, the developer said the proposed project on Spiller Road is consistent with the city’s official community plan.
The project would offer much-needed affordable family-oriented housing, Canadian Horizons vice president Nathan Hildebrand said.
The company also said the $100-million investment will bring approximately 2,000 construction jobs to the city, new park space and walking and biking trails.
— with files from Shelby Thom