An area sought after for it's sustainable agricultural, cultural and recreational assets, is on the line and at the risk from a short-sighted development proposal for the area.
With its spectacular natural views, unique biking and walking trails; the KVR; Okanagan Lake; its variety of wineries, vineyards, and wildlife, Penticton’s Naramata Bench has become one of Canada’s premier tourist and residential destinations. Destination BC has identified the area as one of 5 top reasons to travel and explore BC.
The future of a destination and community under threat.
Recognizing the importance of managing its growth strategy, Penticton recently embarked on an extensive and inclusive Official Community Plan (“OCP”). The OCP captured the essence of the key defining characteristics of our City that make it “A place to stay forever” as well as “A place to vacation forever”. The vision and scope of the OCP summarize the key elements needed to align project growth with the needs and desires of the City while protecting the community’s brand and image. The residents of Penticton supported the vision and principles of the OCP.
All of this is threatened by development of high-density housing along the eastern hills of the Bench which could ultimately open the doors to other inappropriately located urban subdivisions, and choke the roads and other facilities that make the area unique. There are many alternative development sites within Penticton for infill and densification, and there is no need to compromise the objectives of the OCP.
The first stage of development as proposed by CH was outlined in their website: Canadian Horizons 1050 Spiller Road Engagement (“CH NCP”). The proposals have far-reaching consequences for residents and visitors to the area who inject estimated revenues of more than $170-million into the local economies each year.
CH propose constructing a mixed-use development on the 1050 Spiller Road property that will accommodate approximately 324 single family housing units. It is anticipated that this would only be the first phase of numerous additional building phases that would extend the development as far north as the Three Blind Mice trails. Currently 2 properties are for sale at 1251 Spiller Road (90 acres) and 1201 Spiller Road (72 acres). CH has acknowledged that they see these properties being developed, and they will be able to recoup some or all of their infrastructure costs by charging the new developer fees to tie-in to the CH infrastructure.
This development site overlooks the Naramata Bench and the area encompasses land from Okanagan Park to the north, Penticton Creek to the south, Okanagan Lake to the west, and the 675-meter contour line to the east. It encompasses over 9,000 acres of which over 600 acres are cultivated as vineyards and over 250 acres as orchards.
All of CH’s proposed development area is situated within the Naramata Bench sub-appellation that was recently approved by the Ministry of Agriculture. The residents' opinion is that the proposed development will detrimentally affect the agri-tourism industry in the region through damage to the watershed and the environment which will ultimately reduce tourism and impair the viability of the agricultural economy of the Naramata bench and the surrounding region.
In order to ensure that the opposition to the Development is representative of those across the spectrum of residents, tourists, farmers, and business owners, a petition was initiated to “Save the Bench”. To date, there have been more than 15,000 signatures along with many informed and varied comments opposing the Development (see comments in Our Petition, what others think).