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College students urge Penticton council to approve large housing development

A developer is proposing to build 71 strata townhouse units and 148 purpose-built rental units on an industrial property across from the Penticton campus of Okanagan College.
A developer is proposing to build 71 strata townhouse units and 148 purpose-built rental units on an industrial property across from the Penticton campus of Okanagan College. Submitted

College students in Penticton, B.C., are getting political, writing to city council in support of a large housing development proposed for a property adjacent to Okanagan College.

The Okanagan College Students’ Union wrote a letter of support for the rezoning of 955 Timmins St. to allow for a multi-family residential development across from the Penticton campus.

“Affordable, convenient, secure student-friendly housing in Penticton will provide more opportunities for students to come to our Peach City from all over the valley, the province, the country, and even from the wider world. Not to mention the benefit of keeping more of our local students in town while they study,” the student union wrote.

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The group said Penticton is the only community of the main four campuses without dedicated housing.

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The proposed site layout for a large multi-family residential development across from Okanagan College in Penticton, B.C. Penticton city council agenda

“This could limit how much our campus may be able to grow over the next few years, which is unfortunate given the unique programming offered only at the Penticton campus such as Sustainable Building Technology and Human Kinetics,” it said.

Radec Group Inc., on behalf of Ryzak Holdings, is proposing to build 148 apartments and 71 townhouse units on the 6.6-acre parcel of industrial land.

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“Penticton’s challenging rental market includes a vacancy rate of less than 1%, putting pressure on post-secondary education facilities as well as local employers,” the proponent said.

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Okanagan College is also throwing its support behind the development application.

“Okanagan College intends to continue recruitment efforts to expand our student base in Penticton and our students have indicated for several years that finding housing, particularly housing that is affordable and suitable to the student academic calendar is a significant challenge when they come to the community,” said Curtis Morcom, vice-president of employee and corporate services.

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Interior Health is also in favour, saying the city needs more purpose-built rental units to address Penticton’s dismal rental vacancy rate.

“Given the low vacancy rate in Penticton, coupled with the lack of affordable housing units within the City, this development provides a great opportunity to create new affordable units through offering diverse housing forms and tenure types that would support families of all sizes,” said environmental health officer Misty Palm.

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The Penticton Industrial Development Association, meanwhile, has expressed concern about the potential loss of industrial land.

“A single manufacturer operating on this property will bring millions of dollars into our community, dozens of high-income jobs, contribute significant taxes and utility fees on an ongoing basis, month after month and year after year, employing leading-edge technology and equipment,” said spokesperson Frank Conci.

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“Housing is an ongoing concern, but there are many more options for housing that are not available to industrial users, so the preservation of the very limited land available for industrial use is vital.”

Neighbours also raised concerns about traffic congestion and speeding drivers in the area. The proponent has agreed to pay $110,000 for traffic-calming measures on Moosejaw Street.

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All stakeholders will have a chance to speak in favour or against the proposal at a public hearing on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

When asked for comment, City of Penticton communications manager Philip Cooper said all correspondence will be considered by city council when the proposal is discussed on Tuesday.

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