British Columbia

Penticton council rejects 300-home development proposal for Naramata Bench

Penticton Coun. Julius Bloomfield says the high-density proposal doesn't fit the character of area, known for its vineyards and orchards.

Agricultural area is known for its vineyards and orchards

On Tuesday, Penticton city council unanimously voted down a project proposed by developer Canadian Horizons to build about 300 homes on rural land. (Becks/Flickr)

Penticton city council has unanimously rejected a rezoning application to build hundreds of homes on the Naramata Bench, an area of the southern Okanagan known for its vineyards and orchards.

The proposal from land developer Canadian Horizons was to build 300 detached homes on a 65-hectare (160-acre) piece of agricultural land — an idea that's been criticized by residents for being out of line with the region's character. 

City council voted down the proposal on Tuesday, but Coun. Julius Bloomfield says council is open to new ideas and expects the developer to return with a new proposal.

"If we manage developments that complement where we live better than we will, we will have a successful community," Bloomfield said to Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South. "It's not a question of cramming in as many houses as possible or as many people as possible. It's about creating a balance."

Developer bought land in 2005

The developer had slightly reduced the magnitude of its proposal, from 320 homes proposed in September to the 300 proposed in advance of the recent council vote. 

But council rejected the rezoning application despite the developer's concession on density. 

"I've seen times where people have built city houses in country settings and country houses in city settings," said Bloomfield. "It always looks out of place."

Canadian Horizons bought the agricultural land in 2005 and has had its rezoning proposal posted on its website since 2014. Last summer, it mailed its proposal to neighbours asking for feedback.

But local residents didn't feel they had been properly consulted.

On Sept. 15, farmers drove their tractors to city hall to voice their opposition to what they called the "mega-development" that could ruin the local agri-tourism industry.

Lyndie Hill, a member of advocacy group Preserve Naramata Bench Society, says Penticton residents shouldn't accept Canadian Horizons' high-density housing project, which they fear would compromise the region's natural beauty.

"I understand that for the developer, that [a low-density housing project] is not going to make them the money that they want … or it may create that the houses are too expensive and … hard to sell," Hill said earlier this week. "But this is about more than putting money in a developer's pockets. This is about the future of a community."

In September, the City of Penticton said Canadian Horizons' residential development proposal complies with its official community plan adopted in 2009, which envisions the land in question as a residential zone that can accommodate the municipality's population growth. 

But the city also said councillors have room to weigh in, even though they're guided by the plan.

Tap the link below to hear Julius Bloomfield's interview on Daybreak South:

Penticton Councillor Julius Bloomfield speaks to Chris Walker about why the council unanimously denies the rezoning application from land developer Canadian Horizons. 5:26

With files from Daybreak South


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