Local farmers worried about a proposed 320-unit housing development on the Naramata Bench will drive their concerns to Penticton city hall Tuesday afternoon.
Members of the group plan to ride their tractors in from Naramata and arrive at city hall around 3 p.m. in a bid to draw attention to a potential rezoning application from Canadian Horizons that would be necessary to go ahead with the project.
“We are in favour of smart and sustainable development aligned with the guiding principles of Penticton’s Official Community Plan. What Canadian Horizons has proposed fails on all counts. Their plans are out of touch, out of place and motivated by dollar signs, not the long-term best interests of our community,” John Bilodeau, one of the protest organizers, said in a press release.
“We are gathering on Tuesday in a safe and socially distanced manner, to raise awareness of what is at stake if our council allows Canadian Horizons to proceed.”
Canadian Horizons this spring opened public consultation on its as-yet unnamed project at 1050 Spiller Rd., a 49-hectare swath of natural hillside immediately north of the Campbell Mountain Landfill.
Although still in its infancy, the plan calls for mainly single-family homes, but also some apartments or townhouses. Approximately one-third of the site would be left in a natural state, while three parks would cover a total of 1.3 hectares, and it would all be connected with trails for people and wildlife. The bulk of the natural area would be on the south end of the property closest to the landfill.
New residents wouldn’t have to drive home past the dump, though, because Canadian Horizons has proposed building a new main access off another property it owns at 850 Naramata Rd. across from Red Rooster Winery. The company, which is based in Vancouver, would also cover the cost of extending all utilities to the site from Naramata Road, plus build a water reservoir to supply homes and help with fire protection in the area.
Although the proposed development site, which Canadian Horizons purchased in 2006, is about three kilometres from the closet residential neighbourhood, it has been identified as a future residential growth area by the City of Penticton since at least 2005.
It stayed that way in 2014, when council adopted the Spiller Road/Reservoir Road Area Neighbourhood Concept Plan – on which Canadian Horizons collaborated – against strong opposition from area residents.
And the land remains earmarked for houses in the current Official Community Plan, which received a major overhaul in 2019.
But despite being designated for urban development in the OCP, the site is still zoned country residential, meaning Canadian Horizons needs city council’s blessing before any work begins.
The company said previously it expects to formally submit its rezoning application to the City of Penticton this fall, and won’t make any public comments until that time.
This story has been updated with background information