by Dave Preston
Peachland taxpayers shelled out $1,800 to find out that the proposed TNI development on Beach Avenue generally lives up to the spirit and intent of the town’s planning guidelines.
Steve Allison has proposed consolidating the Edgewater Inn and Aegean Grill properties so that a new, three-storey, mixed use building can be constructed.
Allison was critical of Mayor Keith Fielding’s decision in July to convene what he called a peer review panel to review the development and form an opinion as to whether it lived up to the district’s planning guidelines.
Fielding stated he would convene the panel because several residents complained their views on the project were not being listened to. Allison said adding the panel as another step in the development process created a situation where he could not begin construction this year.
The panel was convened but no information about it, including the opinions of panel members, had been released by the district, until now.
Residents were not allowed to attend the panel, but they were invited to make submissions, which were to be reviewed by panel members.
Allison was initially to appear before the council but, according to him, he was subsequently asked not to attend.
The development went through a public hearing and made it to third reading of a zoning bylaw amendment. It was reviewed by the town’s Advisory Planning Committee and that group recommended the development proceed.
The panel convened in secret and it’s views and recommendations remained secret until this week. On Tuesday council decided there was too much new information brought forward since the public hearing and it rescinded third reading of the zoning bylaw amendment. That paved the way for a new public hearing in the future and opened the door for information about the peer review panel to be released to the public.
A freedom of information request submitted by PeachlandNews.com revealed the names of the three panel members, what it cost taxpayers to convene the panel and the thoughts of two of the panel members of the proposed TNI development.
The panel met with Dave Smith, the town’s director of planning and development services, on Tuesday, July 31 in a meeting room at the Kelowna International Airport.
Panel members were:
- Sara Barron, a project coordinator with UBC’s Design Centre for Sustainability.
- Bob McDonell, an architect with MQN Architects from Vernon.
- Hazel Christy, a registered professional planner with Christy and Associates in Lake Country.
Barron flew into Kelowna for the meeting from Vancouver and returned the same day.
Each of the panel members was paid a $500 per diem. Barron was reimbursed $250 for her flight and food, and the town paid $67 for the meeting room.
In total, $1,817 was spent on the panel, according to copies of receipts given to PeachlandNews.com.
The panel did not prepare a report for the district, but the freedom of information request resulted in copies of notes taken by two of the panel members: Bob McDonell and Hazel Christy.
In a terms of reference, panel members were asked to review the development proposal in context of the Sustainable Downtown Peachland Plan (Charette Report) and relevant components of the Beach Avenue Neighborhood Plan. Further, the panel was to review comments submitted by the public and the development proponent.
The panel received an 18-page submission from Allison and 50 pages of submissions from the public.
McDonell’s and Christy’s notes suggest several problems with the development. Both express concern about limited landscaping around the building, which McDonell called, “…extremely important for the pedestrian experience.”
The building as proposed, “…conveys a vehicular orientated impression, not pedestrian friendly,” according to McDonell, who suggests individual store fronts could be highlighted to limit the impression of one large building.
Included in the Charette Report is a reference to a mid-block pedestrian connection to Waldo Way. Christy notes it is not clear where the connection would be.
Christy said normally for such a connection, the developer would give up 1.5 metres of land and the adjacent property owner (the District of Peachland, which owns the adjacent parcel that now holds the Visitor Information Centre) would also give up 1.5 metres of land.
The town could also dedicate three metres of land on the north side of the TNI building to allow for a connection, according to Christy.
McDonell suggested that, if a connection cannot be achieved on the north side of the building, the developer could install a three metre wide walkway through the building, running from Beach Avenue to Waldo Way, that could be gated and locked at night.
Other comments made by the two panel members, including in direct reference of concerns from the public, include:
- The proposed building conforms to development guidelines for a scale of two to three stories;
- The design meets many of the fundamental criteria of the design charette document;
- The consolidation of the two lots… should not be detrimental to the charette vision provided the attention to create individual storefronts at street level occurs;
- The group concurred that the stone archway at mid-block creates an over-imposing entrance;
- The group agreed that replication of a historic building on the site was not required or appropriate;
- There is no consistent or uniform commercial heritage portrayed in architecture throughout the downtown – this is not part of design guidelines and that may not be necessary as themes have been that successful;
- Creating an artificial theme does not appear to be appropriate for Peachland;
- Comments have been made about articulation along Beach Avenue. I believe that there is adequate articulation and definition of different store fronts;
- Parking is always hard to find in desirable commercial places, yet people find ways to get there. Parking is not the driver of a successful place.