Peachland’s 'elephant in a flower bed' approved with mayor’s blessing | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Peachland’s 'elephant in a flower bed' approved with mayor’s blessing

After years of efforts, this "elephant in a flower bed" has finally been approved for Peachland's waterfront.
Image Credit: Submitted/Dstrict of Peachland
March 24, 2021 - 5:32 PM

After questioning the merits of a four-storey waterfront housing project and causing a two-week delay, Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin is now fully supportive of what one councillor dubbed an “elephant in a flower bed.”

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

The project, approved by Peachland council in a 4-3 vote yesterday, March 23, is at 4316 Beach Ave. It will put a four-storey commercial/residential building between two single-family homes across the road from Okanagan Lake.

It was given all-but-final approval in May 2020, with Fortin casting the deciding vote, but she balked at giving it final approval on March 9, saying she felt uncomfortable making that decision at that time.

It’s highly unusual for a rezoning application to be denied at fourth and final reading if it has passed third reading and the developer has met all required conditions put on them by the municipality.

READ MORE: Peachland mayor may have deciding vote on controversial waterfront condo

“After looking at the form and character part, I did have concerns about it,” Fortin said at the March 9 meeting. “Maybe we do need to rethink this a little bit, where it’s located and the zoning that has been proposed.”

After getting council to defer a decision until last night, Fortin came out strongly in favour of the project.

“I do like this development,” she said. “I think it would be a wonderful asset to our community.”

Had Fortin voted no to the zoning, the developer could have gone after the municipality for some of its costs.

But, it wasn’t just the financial cost that Fortin was worried about.

“There is another cost that has been mentioned here tonight and that’s the reputation of our community as being difficult and anti-development,” she said. “This is not good. I believe in moderate development.”

Peachland has a history of public opposition to larger scale projects on its waterfront, such as the Gateway in 2004 that Fortin said is now a “popular feature” of the community and the more recent Peach Tree development.

“If we’re going to have a new building every 17 years, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Coun. Pam Cunningham noted in support of this application.

One concern for opponents was that such projects will destroy the small town feel of Peachland.

“We must have development,” Fortin said. “Peachland cannot exist without moving forward and we can do it without losing the small town charm. I do not want to see us lose the small town charm but, I also don’t want to see property tax bills to go up, making it impossible for working families to live here, or seniors.”

She also had harsh words for residents who didn’t think she was listening to their complaints about the project, noting that the 22 people who spoke out against it at the public hearing in 2019 accounted for less than half a per cent of Peachland’s population.

“It’s simply not true that we’re not listening to the public,” Fortin said. “Listening to the public is a huge part of what we do every single day. There is a distinction between not listening and not agreeing with. It’s been my experience that, when I don’t feel the same way as a resident, they’ll say that I’m listening. I am listening but I’m just not agreeing with their point of view.”


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