Peachland mayor may have deciding vote on controversial waterfront condo | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Peachland mayor may have deciding vote on controversial waterfront condo

Artist rendering of what one Peachland councillor called "an elephant in a flower bed."
Image Credit: Submitted/Dstrict of Peachland
March 19, 2021 - 5:30 PM

Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin pressed on the brakes to slow down a precedent-setting four-storey waterfront development last week.

Whether Fortin will force it to grind to a full stop or speed it off into a path of change for her community will be left up to her when her council reconvenes next week. Her six member council was evenly, and strongly, divided on the project.

“At that time, (last week) the meeting was running high on emotion,” Fortin said to "I thought I just needed to defer it and pull back.”

If she says yes to the project, a major part of Peachland's downtown could lose its small town charm and become a sea of four- or five-storey buildings housing shops and condos.

Is the Mayor says no, it might just keep its collection of single-family homes that, given the current real estate market, are selling for steadily increasing prices.

Beach Avenue resident Ted Cave put up a crane to illustrate how tall the proposed Peachland development will be.
Beach Avenue resident Ted Cave put up a crane to illustrate how tall the proposed Peachland development will be.

Fortin cast the deciding vote last year to give all-but-final approval to the mixed commercial/residential building on the town’s waterfront Beach Avenue between 11 and 12 Streets. It’s the type of project envisioned by municipal plans for that part of Peachland.

When it came back for what is almost always routine approval on March 9, Fortin didn’t feel “comfortable” moving it forward.

When she spoke with this week, Fortin offered some pertinent historical reasons why approving the project might be a good idea.

She spoke of the strong public opposition to a similarly controversial project called The Gateway that was built in 2005.

“Back in the day, people were unhappy about the Gateway building,” Fortin said. “People said it would change the character of Peachland, that it would stick out like a sore thumb.”

When the next controversial Beach Avenue project, Peach Tree Village, came before a hostile public in 2017, she read aloud some of the comments from the public hearing.

“People actually thought I was reading comments about the Peach Tree development,” Fortin said. “At the end of that I said, this isn’t from this one. This is from the Gateway building and look at what an important feature economically and, just a popular feature in Peachland it is now,” she said. “The sky didn’t fall in. Change is difficult.”

Even the councillors who spoke out against this latest project - one of whom referred to it as an “elephant in a flower bed” - didn’t object to the form and character of the building.

Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin
Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Cindy Fortin

Rather, they argued, it was going to set a precedent for the redevelopment of the whole area from Beach Avenue to Highway 97 north of 6 Avenue.

“It is left to our imagination and the imagination of developers to interpret the meaning of our OCP (Official Community Plan) and draw a picture on a near blank canvass,” councillor Keith Fielding said at the March 9 meeting “One developer has come forward and has drawn on a blank canvass.

“The question we have to ask ourselves, as a council, is simple. Do we agree with this developer’s interpretation of what the OCP meant by mixed use development on Beach Avenue? This question is of vital importance because, if our answer is yes, and we approve the CR-2 zone tonight, we are establishing a precedent that will allow any future developer wanting to build a five story, 52-foot (tall) building on Beach Avenue the right to apply for a permit to do so.”

To turn a rezoning application down at fourth reading is almost never done and may be costly for the district if the developer seeks recourse.

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

“It was brought up at the meeting that we had stipulated some things we wanted to see the developer agree to, or to do, after third reading and they’ve done them,” Fortin said. “That’s the problem. It was at their expense for sure. They did dedicate a road and we may have to pay for that.”

On the other hand, she argued, fourth reading is for, “final consideration and adoption. Nothing is set in stone. That’s why we have that final chance to reconsider.”

Despite her comments to about how previous projects ended up being welcome additions to Peachland, she said at the March 9 meeting and reiterated again in the interview that she “wants to do what is right for the community.”

Given her past support for the other projects, what is right for the community is not necessarily the will of the many residents who spoke strongly against this project as they did the other ones.

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

“I never want to see this happen this again,” Fortin told iNFOnews. “I’m not completely on board with putting together a whole Beach Avenue plan again. We have an older one. We just updated the Official Community Plan but I think there needs to be a better definition of what, exactly, we want to see along Beach Avenue. I’m not just talking about height. I’m talking about form and character.

“I think, what we need to do, maybe in a strategic meeting or some time coming up, is to get together as a council and have a workshop and involve the public again and, maybe even developers as well, and find out what we want to see on Beach Avenue that the consensus of the people can agree on.”

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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