El Rancho proposal 2.0

The latest vision for the El Ranch Motel site includes 300-plus resort-style residential units and commercial space along Westminster Avenue.

An ambitious redevelopment project that would add hundreds of residential units to a long-neglected site near the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre has cleared its first hurdle.

City council on Tuesday voted 6-1 in favour of granting the necessary Official Community Plan amendment for the project at 877 Westminster Ave, currently home to the El Rancho motel and a car rental business. The lone vote in opposition was registered by Coun. James Miller, who didn’t offer a reason for his dissent.

With that OCP amendment in hand, developer Dennis Skuter can now get to work on the designs he will present to the city alongside applications for further regulatory approvals.

Just three people, including Skuter, spoke at a public hearing in advance of council’s decision.

Skuter pledged to assist with an orderly departure for the residents of 75 long-term rental units at the motel.

“I think that it will be a natural, sort of a harmonious purging,” said Skuter.

Construction would proceed in phases, he continued, “and we’ll keep part of the (El Rancho) structures in place while we’re doing the initial phases and that provides an opportunity for a smooth and non-jarring event for the present residents to either relocate or stay on site as we go along.”

Two others who spoke at the public hearing expressed concerns about increased density and building heights on the site – where towers up to six storeys are now permitted by virtue of the OCP amendment – although such details have yet to be finalized.

Skuter’s preliminary designs contemplate a cluster of six-storey buildings featuring upwards of 300 residential units in a resort-style development with commercial space fronting Westminster Avenue and the PTCC.

An earlier version of the project was rejected by a 3-3 vote of council in June 2020, largely because the proposal didn’t feature a long-sought hotel to support the PTCC.

Since then, a hotel has been planned for nearby Vernon Avenue and the El Rancho proposal was amended to so its residential component would include stratified units suitable for short-term rentals.