Peachland could be headed for trouble if mayor says no to 'elephant in a flower bed' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Peachland could be headed for trouble if mayor says no to 'elephant in a flower bed'

Artist rendering of what one Peachland councillor called "an elephant in a flower bed."
Image Credit: Submitted/Dstrict of Peachland
March 18, 2021 - 6:30 AM

Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin is on the brink of doing something that’s rarely done anywhere in B.C. – turning down a project that has, essentially, already been approved.

If she does, it has the potential of turning into an expensive legal battle.

Fortin recently had a change of mind on a proposed four-storey commercial/residential project on waterfront Beach Avenue, between 11 and 12 Streets.

“I really feel uncomfortable with this,” Fortin said during a March 9 council meeting where final approval of a rezoning application was expected.

“I know it’s putting planning in an awful position if this doesn’t pass because they’ve moved along as far as they have; as has the developer,” she said. “But, my loyalty is to the community and that’s what’s most important to me.”

Some of her colleagues viewed the project as being potentially disastrous for Peachland.

“We see a structure that stands out, I would say, like an elephant in a flower bed,” Coun. Keith Fielding said.

“Dropping a 50-foot (tall) building between a couple of bungalows doesn’t’ make sense to me,” Coun. Pete Coolio added. “This is a pivotal moment in the character and the development of the community.”

READ MORE: Big development planned for Peachland waterfront is ruffling feathers

On the other side of the debate were those saying they would not be swayed by fear-mongering and that the community needed to grow and change while still retaining its small-town character.

“It’s a start,” Coun. Pam Cunningham said. “If it’s an elephant in a garden, eventually there will be a whole herd so then it won’t be off.”

At issue is the first application to change the residential character of Peachland’s waterfront north of Sixth Street from mostly single-family homes to a mix of commercial and multifamily buildings.

In this case, it’s a four-storey, 52-foot tall building with commercial on the first floor on a 0.26 acre lot between two single storey homes between 11th and 12th streets.

This is the house the new building will replace, if approved.
This is the house the new building will replace, if approved.
Image Credit: Submitted/B.C. Assessment

While that may be a hot-button issue to that small Okanagan community, the broader question is: Can a municipal council decide, at the last moment, to kill a rezoning application.

And, if they do, what are the consequences?

Peachland council is clearly and strongly divided on this question with Mayor Fortin being the swing vote.

There was a hot debate in council in May 2020 when Fortin cast the deciding vote giving the project its third reading.

Normally, that means the fourth and final reading is routine, once the developer has fulfilled all conditions set down by the local government.

In this case, the road dedication, payments to the municipality and all other conditions were met.

The next stage, normally, would have been to pass the fourth reading then argue about the development permit, which determines the form and character of the building.

Instead, at last week’s meeting, council argued that the building was too big and would set a tone for the entire neighbourhood far into the future if the zoning was approved.

Those opposed said they needed to have more of a say in what future buildings would look like in that neighbourhood, not leave that choice up to the developer.

“Council gave this bylaw third reading already,” Darin Schaal, Peachland’s director of planning and development services, told council. “All the conditions have been satisfied. I think this debate occurred at third reading and I believe that we need to assess the form and character development permit.”

That fell on deaf ears.

In the end, council deferred a decision until its March 23 meeting. Schaal expects the debate to resume at that meeting and is concerned about the consequences if council rejects the rezoning at such a late stage.

That’s something that, in his 10 years in municipal planning, the past two in Peachland, he’s never seen before.

“Not in my experience,” he told iNFOnes.ca. “I’ve certainly seen third readings given with lots of conditions and then developers decide not to move forward, or they have not met conditions and applications have lapsed and so forth.”

A City of Kelowna spokesperson, who did not want to speak on behalf of another municipality so did not want his name used, said he doesn’t recall any time Kelowna has rejected a developer’s application after passing third reading.

The only time he recalls something similar happening was in 2008 when the city tried to rezone part of its downtown to what was called the CD21 zone.

The city filed the application and there was an election held between third and fourth readings so there were no consequences to the city.

But, he knows of court cases where developers have fought back against such decisions in other cities.

“This can happen,” the Kelowna spokesman said. “There’s not a rule that says you’ve got third reading so you must get fourth reading. But, there could be consequences.”

Whether those consequences come through court rulings or negotiations depends on the individual circumstance, he said.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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