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Penticton Indian Band speaks out against proposed mega-subdivision on the Naramata Bench

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WATCH: (Aired September 2020) A contingent of local farmers descended on Penticton City Hall while driving their tractors in protest of a proposed residential subdivision on the Naramata Bench. Shelby Thom reports. – Sep 16, 2020

A controversial proposed subdivision on the Naramata Bench in Penticton, B.C., has failed to gain the support of the Penticton Indian Band.

The Syilx/Okanagan Nation, which comprises eight First Nations communities in the Okanagan, including the Penticton Indian Band (PIB), says in a statement that it is exercising Indigenous rights and title to the land within the kɬsəlxʷikn̓, Syilx Territory.

Vancouver-based real estate developer Canadian Horizons is pitching a 320-unit subdivision, ranging from single-family lots to townhomes, on 163 acres of land at 1050 Spiller Road.

Read more: Farmers rally against proposed mega-subdivision on the Naramata Bench

“The development will directly and irrevocably impact Syilx Nation title and rights,” the statement said.

“The snPink’tn people have and continue to utilize this area for food, social and ceremonial (FSC) practices,” said Chief Chad Eneas.

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The land-use plan for the Naramata Bench where developer Canadian Horizons wants to construct a large urban subdivision, which is being met with opposition from some area residents. City of Penticton

“Current FSC practices cannot coexist with the proposed residential development. It will lead directly to the permanent extinguishment of Syilx Nation/PIB FSC protected rights,” he said.

The Penticton Indian Band said it advised Canadian Horizons and the provincial government over the last three years of “significant impacts” that will result from the proposed development.

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“We affirm our position of rejection,” said Chief Eneas.

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“The Penticton Indian Band does not approve, consent or in any other manner agree to the proposed development at 1050 Spiller Road.”

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Chief Eneas rarely releases statements to the media, and he did so on his last day as Chief. A new Chief was elected by PIB members on Monday night.

Greg Gabriel will be sworn in as Chief on Tuesday.

In response, Canadian Horizons says its reached out to the band on “several occasions” in an attempt to better understand their concerns, but the developer has yet to hear back.

Vice-president Nathan Hildebrand said the company also worked with members of the PIB to complete archaeological impact assessments, required for the rezoning application.

The band “recommended no further investigation required,” he said.

The proposed mega-subdivision is also facing opposition from area farmers and residents.

Critics say it’s an inappropriate location for a high-density residential neighbourhood because the bench is world-renowned for agri-tourism, surrounded by rolling vineyards and orchards.

There are also concerns about increased traffic and the impact on wildlife in the forested area.

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Farmers held a tractor rally in front of Penticton city hall on Sept. 15 in protest of the proposal.

City staff said the land in question is zoned for urban development and fits in with the city’s new official community plan.

An open house and public hearing will be held on the proposed development once the land-use amendment bylaw is introduced to council.

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