British Columbia

Seniors development in Summerland, B.C., divides community

A proposed seniors housing development with more than 400 units near Okanagan Lake in Summerland, B.C., has raised concerns about its size and impact.

Hundreds of residents crowd public meeting to talk about its potential environmental effects

Some Summerland, B.C. residents are concerned a development could affect the local trout hatchery. (Erick Thompson)

The fate of a seniors housing complex with more than 400 units overlooking Okanagan Lake is uncertain after continued opposition in Summerland, B.C.

The District of Summerland is considering changing its official community plan to allow for a large housing project and heard from residents speaking against it at a public hearing Monday.

Summerland council meets Tuesday night, and could have a decision on the development by the end of the week. 

"It's a beautiful valley," said resident Brian Udall. "To think of it being slaughtered … I think it's a great idea but it's just the wrong place."

Lark Group, the project's developer, initially heard overwhelmingly positive comments, said Kirk Fisher, the company's senior vice-president.

 "That made us fired up and excited to come to the community with that great support," Fisher said.

When he received a petition of 3,000 signatures last summer asking the district and Lark Group to reconsider the project, he said the company returned to speak to residents about what the development would mean for the community.

"We don't think any project should be in a community like this unless it's going to have a really strong environmental and financial impact, which we believe this project will," Fisher said.

Conflicting views

Jesse Zeman of the B.C. Wildlife Federation said a development of that size could impact a nearby trout hatchery that depends on an aquifer located directly beneath the proposed site.

"The Summerland hatchery is one of the oldest hatcheries in the province," he said. "It stocks 300 lakes for 280,000 people to enjoy.

I think it's a great idea but it's just the wrong place.- Brian Udall

"If there is an issue with the water, who's going to pay to either find an alternate water source or to find an alternate location for the hatchery?"

Craig Milton, Summerland resident and architectural technologist, said residents should trust that modern building science will protect people and the environment during and after construction.

 "This development seems to represent an opportunity that they would be foolish not to try to capitalize on," Milton said.

With files from Daybreak South