Neighbours concerned about a proposed 330-home subdivision at the foot of the Naramata Bench have fresh worries on their doorsteps: noxious weeds.
The process to redevelop the site at 1050 Spiller Rd. has been in the works since at least 2006, when Canadian Horizons purchased the 49-hectare swath of natural hillside immediately north of the Campbell Mountain Landfill.
The company at the same time purchased a second property at 880 Naramata Rd. through which it intends to build a new access road to the residential development above.
The lower site was once home to an orchard, but the trees were pulled out and it has sat fallow for the past two years. Now the only thing growing there is weeds, including Russian thistle.
“The issue for us is these weeds are going to come up in their natural cycle very soon once the frost begins,” explained Anette Engel, one of the protest organizers.
“The seeds will roll onto our properties through tumbleweeds and they will infect our orchards and vineyards. To be honest, I’ve been pulling these weeds for the past six years and always made sure I got them out of the soil before they spread. I don’t want to start all over again before they get all over my property.”
An official from Canadian Horizons confirmed Wednesday the company is aware of neighours’ concerns.
“We have reached out to a local contractor to undertake weed removal and to tidy up the site. We noticed that the fence has been knocked down/damaged so we will be undertaking fixing the fence as well,” vice-president Nathan Hildebrand said in an email.
“Timing for all of this will likely be sometime over the next couple of weeks.”
Hildebrand said the site could eventually be home to a winery or something similar, but said plans won’t be firmed up until the road alignment is finalized.
Besides the weeds, neighbours, who staged a tractor protest at Penticton city hall in September, are also worried about what will be required to build the new access road, which they believe will require blasting.
“It would be highly visible and a huge scar on the natural environment,” said Engel.
Tuesday’s protest was one of a series opponents plan on holding in the coming months, with the required rezoning application expected to be submitted to the City of Penticton this fall.
Opponents’ broader concerns run the gamut from urban sprawl and road congestion to hillside erosion and the loss of natural habitat.
“We’re hoping to right now to convince city council to not approve this and reject the rezoning. That’s our main point. We are a grassroots organization and there are other ideas we will be talking about, but right now the focus is on ensuring council does not approve this high-density, residential development that is being talked about,” said Engel.
“The only thing we can do is apply our own pressure and just make sure people know what’s going on. This is not just a Naramata problem. It effects everyone in Penticton. All people going to Naramata Bench, locals and tourists, they all have to drive by this site. Naramata people are opposed. Penticton people are opposed. This is just not the right time or place for a huge development like this.”
The site is already earmarked for growth in the current Official Community Plan, which was updated in 2019, and in the Spiller Road/Reservoir Road Area Neighbourhood Concept Plan, which was adopted by council in 2014.
However, the land is zoned for country residential, meaning Canadian Horizons requires Penticton city council to rezone it for increased density.