As readers will be aware, many developers see Peachland as a highly desirable place in which to invest: we are located in one of the most appealing and desirable parts of the Okanagan; we have the capacity to accommodate growth; and, we have (in my opinion) a community that is willing to embrace growth, provided that it is tasteful, sustainable, and likely to complement all that we value as a small town, proud of our history, heritage, and culture.
Clearly, opinions differ as to what is tasteful, what is sustainable, and what is desirable: issues that will no doubt fuel debate well into the future. However, if we accept that growth can bring with it economic and social benefits that would not otherwise be available to us (e.g. affordable housing, business opportunities, local employment, the settlement of younger families, expansion of the tax base to permit amenity and infrastructure enhancement; etc.) then the question that most clearly comes into focus is: How much development is desirable and sustainable?
Major projects currently underway, or proposed for Peachland, include the Ponderosa/Pincushion project; the downtown revitalization project; the New Monaco project; and the Hangingstone project, proposed as part of the Lower Princeton Area Structure Plan. In addition, other smaller projects, and infill development, will continue and will add further to the supply of available housing.
If all of the known projects were to proceed to maximum build-out over the next 20years, we would be experiencing a rate of growth that is approximately seven per cent per year. Historically, rates of growth in the Okanagan have been considerably lower than that, averaging around two per cent per year according to a preliminary paper issued by the Central Okanagan Regional Growth Strategy review. Clearly then, if there is an appropriate match between supply and demand, future market conditions will have to be substantially different from those in the past, in order to match housing supply at the levels proposed in Peachland.
The challenge for Peachland is to manage future growth responsibly and to ensure that growth occurs sustainably, taking into account economic, social, and environmental impacts. With this in mind, we requested the Peachland Economic Development Committee and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission to assist us in the preparation of Terms of Reference for an independent study of the economic impacts and related issues that arise from currently projected levels of development.
Terms of Reference for the study were approved by Council, and consultants were then invited to submit Expressions of Interest to carry out the study. From the seven submissions received, Council has selected the Vancouver-based Van Struth Consulting Group to conduct the analysis. Their report setting out study findings and recommendations will be presented to Council by year end, following which a further public information meeting will held to present the report to the community and address questions arising.
We look forward to completion of this important study knowing that its findings will be of great value to Peachland in our policy development and decision making, and that its content and timing will benefit from, and complement, work currently underway on the update of the Regional District, Regional Growth Strategy.
Terms of Reference for the Peachland study can be viewed on the District of Peachland website: www.peachland.ca