PENTICTON - After months of discussion and rhetoric, no changes are forthcoming to the status of Penticton’s controversial nude beach.
Faced with a number of possible options from staff to deal with the clothing optional issue at Three Mile Beach, Penticton City Council last night made the most simple one: Do nothing.
The issue came late in a lengthy agenda that had council working past midnight on Tuesday, April 7. A number of residents hung on in the gallery to hear council debate the controversial issue, made more so in the past year after a private property owner evicted the naturists from their traditional location at the east end of the beach.
Amongst a list of five options put forward by city staff, two included expenditures of $65,000 and $100,000, which would have required budget amendments. The options would also have involved extensive renovations to Three Mile Beach and the adjacent dog beach to accommodate the naturists.
Penticton Director of Operations Mitch Moroziuk told council they had no options available to them to deter clothing optional use on the beach, noting public nudity was an issue of federal jurisdiction. If council chose the first staff recommendation - to take no action with respect to changes at Three Mile Beach and that the status quo be maintained - Moroziuk said the issue of public nudity would be a federal matter to address.
Councillor Tarik Sayeed said he listened to both sides, with opposing opinions, but felt at the same time council had to respect everyone.
“We need to be compassionate and inclusive to all humanity,” Sayeed said, adding he would favour posting signage warning of clothing optional activities on the beach, or the option involving extensive renovations in the amount of $100,000.
“All of council has put so much time into this subject. I’ve talked to people in the neighbourhood, in the city, I’ve even talked to people who have lived around the world,” Coun. Helena Konanz said.
“How to look at this right now, this is a public beach, so if the same thing were happening on Skaha Beach, or Okanagan Beach what would our situation be? If the naturists decided to locate at one of those beaches, we wouldn’t be able to do anything to deter that?” she asked.
Moroziuk said he had spoken to legal counsel regarding other municipalities with similar issues. He said those cities where signage had been posted restricting nudity were open to legal challenge.
“Our legal counsel has told us we don’t have jurisdiction in this matter,” he added.
“I believe there is a time and place for a naturist beach throughout the world, and Canada, but I just don’t think it’s there. I wouldn’t want to promote it in that neighbourhood, just as I wouldn’t want to promote it on Okanagan or Skaha Beach. It’s not fair to the neighbourhood. It’s the fact the situation changed and the private beach isn’t available anymore for that naturist beach, but I don’t think it’s fair for me to push that on the neighbourhood,” Konanz said, adding she would not be in favour of signage that might promote clothing optional activity. She moved for staff’s first recommendation - to maintain the status quo, and let RCMP respond to any incidents that may take place in the future.
Sayeed insisted signage was necessary to “caution the neighbours that there maybe some action ongoing." Sentes agreed, also noting the “inordinate amount of time, even sleepless nights” council had put into the matter.
“There has been a lot of comment from the world about this, I take very seriously the legal counsel, and I don’t wish to step into a situation that would become more magnified because we have no jurisdiction over,” she said.
Sentes said she also worried about other interest groups coming forward and requesting space, calling it an “uncomfortable scenario for council.”
Coun. Andre Martin expressed the view council was “kidding themselves” to think people weren’t going to continue going to Three Mile Beach to do what they had been doing for years.
“It probably does make sense to put a sign up that says ‘clothing optional.’ I could go with (recommendation) one, but I don’t think that deals with the issue,” he said, calling it “almost a land use issue.”
Coun. Max Picton said he was “torn” saying it was a case of “a special interest group pushing the public out from one of our beaches.... We just heard earlier this evening, overwhelmingly, the value of those beaches to our public. I have spoken with a ton of our local constituents, and most were not in favour of bringing their friends and families to a naturist beach. I’m struggling with this a lot.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit expressed his frustration, saying council couldn’t condone and couldn’t enforce putting a naturist beach right beside private property that used to be the naturist beach.
“That just compounds the problem, because you’ve sandwiched a naturist beach right in between a public beach and the private beach, so that doesn’t work,” he said.
“For me to relocate it into what has always been the city’s public beach is a little too much in public view,” he said, adding it wasn’t a point he considered “a hill to die on.”
He said he had hoped to investigate other possible locations for a clothing optional beach, but that wasn’t council’s wish in previous discussions. He had also hoped for a compromise in the issue, noting the long history of usage as clothing optional had been recently affected by the private property issue.
“I’m happy that we tried to deal with it, but frustrated with the options still in front of us. Status quo doesn’t resolve things, doesn’t reduce the tension in the neighbourhood. The naturists - I don’t have a problem with them - that location is a little too public for my liking, but I certainly think there is an opportunity somewhere. I just don’t know where that somewhere is.”
Council carried Konanz’s motion to “direct staff to take no action with respect to changes at Three Mile Beach and that the status quo be maintained.”
Penticton naturist Kevin Proteau said in a press release Wednesday, April 8, private property owner Carey Pinkowski “created a furor when he wanted to quietly close naturists off from the small pocket of beach adjacent to his land.”
Proteau said Penticton has lost an economic opportunity through council’s decision to not promote naturist use of Three Mile Beach.
“How very damning that council would give such short shrift to Three Mile by holding two contentious public hearings ahead of such an important decsision, thereby guaranteeing a rushed cowardly status quo outcome which seemed as contrived as it was intolerant!” Proteau wrote.
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