PENTICTON - Monday’s public hearing packed the gallery at city hall with residents, some of whom spilled out into the corridors.
The business at hand concerned a piece of city-owned property located at 1400 Riddle Road, to be re-designated in the Official Community Plan from residential to parks and recreation prior to Monday’s council meeting - and it appears as though everyone involved couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
Of 14 residents who stepped up to the mic to voice their opinion prior to council’s vote, not one voice was raised against the bylaw.
The movement to change land use in the area, which contains a number of bike trails known locally as Three Blind Mice, has been in the works for some time, culminating in a staff report recommending the bylaw. The report noted the change in designation fit into the city’s economic development plan to emphasize the city and the area as a world class cycling destination.
The city’s Climate Advisory Committee was also in favour of the change because it would help the municipality fulfill its Climate Action Charter requirements.
Penticton will earmark $5,000 from the Carbon Action Revenue Incentive Program to conduct a Forest Management Plan as part of the requirements to make the 300-acre property eligible for the Avoided Forest Conversion Program, a move that could provide the city with 800 tonnes of carbon offsets annually for the next 20 years.
Riddle Road resident Doug Cox said he and four neighbours support of the bylaw. He said he wanted to see the lands made accessible to everyone, requesting a qualified forester’s assessment to reduce forest fire fuel load. He also requested a geotechnical report regarding the potential for flash flooding and erosion.
“There are two things that bother us up there, and that is erosion and flash flooding,” he said.
Other speakers complimented council for their “farsightedness,” noting the area provided recreation to cyclists, hikers, horseback riders and others.
Laura Harp spoke of the work done by her and the 200 member Penticton and Area Cycling Association to create and maintain the bike paths on the property adding,
“We aren’t trying to make the area a dedicated mountain bike site.”
She noted the tourism opportunities created by the bylaw, suggesting that cycling was being called “the new golf.”
Climate Action Advisory Chair Chris Allen spoke to the bylaw from the city’s climate action perspective, noting the city had made some progress reducing carbon emissions, but had not been able to gain much in the way of carbon offsets. He said making the property eligible for the Avoided Forest Conversion Program would provide the city with $365,000 worth of carbon credits.
“In one fell swoop council can accomplish a good project for the community and also meet the commitment they made in 2007 (accepting the Climate Action Charter), and that’s why the Climate Action Committee is in support of this project,” he said.
Even former Penticton Mayor Gary Litke noted the support.
“Your first public hearing is one of the most friendly public hearings that I have encountered in the last nine years, so good on you that’s a very good start for you guys,” he said. He also thanked those who moved the project forward under his leadership.
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