In the Peachland age of billion dollar developments, one comparatively small development is attracting a lot of negative attention and strong words.
Tempers flared Thursday afternoon as the council appointed Advisory Planning Committee (APC) sat down in council chambers to discuss the proposed TNI development on the corner of Second Street and Beach Avenue.
Understand that APC meetings are usually dry affairs. Chair Cecile Guilbault said, “We have never had people at our meetings.”
The APC discusses with town staff, developers and architects such subjects as the colour of brick on a building, the size of awnings and whether deciduous or coniferous plantings are preferable in planters.
It wasn’t so dry Thursday.
Although Guilbault repeatedly asked the 30 people in attendance to stick to the subject matter of form and character of the proposed development, many were bound and determined to make their views heard on anything and everything.
Local business owner Steve Allison has proposed tearing down the Edgewater Hotel and the Aegean Grill building to put up a new, three-storey building that would house commercial on the bottom floor, TNI The Network Inc. on the second floor and condos on top.
Peachland council gave third reading to a rezoning amendment Tuesday night. The next step was for the APC to discuss what the building looks like.
After questions from committee members, a number of audience members stood up to say their bits. Repeatedly, the majority of them were asked to stop by Guilbault for straying off the topic of form and character.
Central to the complaints received were that the building is one big structure, as opposed to the smaller, quainter, small town buildings some people seem to want.
Parking was raised and it was immediately quashed by the meeting chair. TNI is asking for a five-year agreement with a five-year renewal, that would allow the company to use 58 parking spots in the parking lot currently behind the Edgewater Inn. TNI would pay for upgrades to the lot and most of the repairs and maintenance.
Some councillors expressed concern Tuesday about the parking covenant, as it is known. Although the development has received third reading, council will deal with the parking issue at a special council meeting next Wednesday.
Things have gotten testy and ugly. On Tuesday night, as council wrestled with the parking covenant in its meeting, a woman sitting in the back of the room heckled council and senior staff, at one point calling them liars. She then asked for an apology at Thursday’s meeting from a development company representative for an alleged verbal altercation in the parking lot after Tuesday’s council meeting.
On Thursday, a man called developers arrogant. Coun. Cindy Fortin chastised one developer representative for allegedly accusing people of having nothing better to do than show up at the committee meeting.
At a public hearing two weeks ago, a woman apparently called Allison a liar when he said he’s lived in Peachland for 17 years.
For the past decade or so, development has been common place in Peachland. There were some notable public hearings, such as the ones held for Lakeshore Gardens and the Gateway, but things seemed to have calmed down lately. Even the meetings held for Ponderosa and New Monaco — massive developments by any definition, were quite quiet compared to what’s going on over the TNI proposal.
Why all this now? A small group of people is being very vocal about the development and Allison is surely feeling beat up at this point. (Note that few, if any people, have been complaining about a new development downtown. They’re complaining about the look of it.)
It seems apparent that this is not about the development but the location of the development. This is the first real development for the downtown core and the developer is not proposing small and quaint. No doubt some people look at TNI’s development as the final nail in the coffin for a charming, small town downtown.
One person Thursday said Peachland should be like Carmel, California. Another inquired about Niagra on the Lake. Still others have been vocal that whatever is built should be faithful to the historic nature of Peachland.
It was about a dozen years ago that the then council made the decision that tall buildings need to be allowed in downtown Peachland. The council of the day realized that to have a vibrant, sustainable, economically feasible downtown, there would have to be big buildings holding lots of people. There was shock and outrage shown, but then it subsided.
Some people complained about Gateway. It’s now a cornerstone. Some people complained about the waterfront walkway, but it has become an exceedingly popular place to go for a walk. Now some people are complaining about the TNI building.
One woman mentioned Thursday that it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the buildings downtown. One would hope not. Take away the trees, the bollards, the hanging plants and the cobblestone on sidewalks, and downtown Peachland isn’t much to look at. Save the Gasthaus, there aren’t any architectural marvels around. Save the museum, the Primary School and the Little Schoolhouse, there is little history in downtown Peachland and some of the history that exists in some buildings some people would just as soon forget.
It’s been about 15 years since the sewers went in downtown, paving the way for the development. In 15 years, nothing has happened. We are so close now, but hot heads abound.
Cooler heads need to prevail. Let’s move on.