PENTICTON - The solution to the Three Mile Beach clothing optional issue was pared down from a list of 10 staff submitted options to two during Monday's council meeting.
The discussion followed a presentation to council by local naturist Kevin Proteau and Canadian Naturist Organization’s Judy Williams.
The 10 options were put forward by staff and discussed at the March 2 council meeting by Chief Financial Officer Colin Fisher. By the end of the discussion they were narrowed down to two, with a motion to look into either providing signs to alert visitors to expect nudity in the public area — or — to segregate the beach into areas for general public and clothing optional use. The motion was passed unanimously.
At the beginning of the discussion, council was given the option to select from any or several of the options, or provide alternative solutions to the matter at Three Mile Beach. A staff report outlined some of the options available to the muncipality.
Councillor Andre Martin questioned an option whereby staff conduct surveys on the issue amongst city residents.
Fisher said the option was presented in order for council to get public opinion on the issue, since it appeared to be controversial.
Councillor Tarik Sayeed inquired about another option that would attempt to hide the activity on the beach from easy view, through the installation of a physical barrier of some sort.
“This is a suggestion that this is an area we might contemplate moving in,” said Fisher.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit elaborated, explaining halfway down the beach the foliage tended to grow thickly enough that the beach couldn’t easily be seen from the path above the beach.
One councillor asked about an option that would see the status quo maintained, which Fisher described as “basically having the same disagreement on the use of the beach between the adjacent property owners and the naturists using the beach, basically we would have to persevere with the conflict we are having at the moment.”
With few councillors offering suggestions, Mayor Jakubeit suggested a decision didn’t need to be made tonight, but staff needed help narrowing down the list of options.
Councillor Judy Sentes suggested a combination of two options, which involved special designation or signage to control clothing optional use at Three Mile, and investigating provisions for special facilities at the beach, such as berms or landscaping.
Councillor Campbell Watt agreed that investigation into potential re-landscaping of the beach to accommodate multiple uses "might be worth looking into.”
Mayor Jakubeit noted that making a portion of the public beach secluded would do little to prevent views from the private portion of beach, the owner of whom was one of the strongest objectors to the naturists’ use.
Councillor Helena Konanz admitted the decision was a tough one, noting the beach’s history of use by naturists.
“I’ve walked that beach quite a few times, just this past weekend a couple of times going up and down the different parts of it.
First of all, it’s a gorgeous beach, that is just a pristine area, not just the public beach but the beach at the end of the road, which I believe is considered a dog beach, and I am telling you, our dogs are incredibly spoiled right now.
They have a beach that we aren’t using, that we’re calling that a dog beach. That is one of the more beautiful beaches in the world, and it shows how spoiled we all are that we’re giving it to the dogs,” she said.
“If council was thinking of dividing this portion of the beach down the stairway, that’s facing north, that’s going to cost a lot of money and time, when really, what we could do is, if council wants some type of naturist beach there, we could really fix up the beach at the end of the road, for our Penticton to use and then if somebody wants clothing optional, then they could use the portion of the beach that’s facing north,” said Konanz.
Konanz said a little money spent on upgrading the dog beach could make it one of the best beaches in Penticton.
It was noted a decision on the issue had to be made soon, as staff had already been investigating the issue over the past year, noting with warmer weather the conflict would likely flare up again.
“To be fair, this matter hasn’t been investigated. In the past, everybody has been pointing fingers, to the neighbour’s frustration, which is why they came as a delegation in February,” said Mayor Jakubeit. He noted the proponents were looking for a solution in time for this summer.
“We don’t have to decide tonight, but I think we have to narrow down what our comfort level is, so we can do more investigation and get some closure.”
The mayor suggested not a lot had been done to investigate other locations on either Skaha or Okanagan Lake for possible use as a naturist beach.
“I think we need to look at some other alternative locations as options, too,” he said.
The possibility of looking at other locations for a clothing optional beach site was frowned upon by staff, however as Director of Operations Mitch Moroziak said to council, “ I believe that exploration of option (F) will be very difficult for a couple of reasons, one you are moving the problem to somewhere it didn’t exist before and the second thing is you are going to have to find a way to gauge public acceptance in that new area, and you have no idea what those people who have never had this type of facility next to them are going to say about that. That’s going to be a much longer process.”
Council directed staff to investigate use of signage, or the creation of special facilities that would segregate clothing optional areas.
Relocation was considered to be too time consuming a process to enable any action to take place in time for the summer season, although the mayor continued to insist other locations might provide a viable alternative.
It is hoped staff will have a report ready for council in time for the first April council meeting.
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This story was corrected at 9:30 p.m. March 4 to clarify council's directions to staff and correct the date of the council meeting.