A petition against taking farmland out of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) to build a subdivision along Valleyview Road and Pineview Road in Penticton is gaining signatures.
More than 445 people have signed the change.org petition so far with the petition results sent to the City of Penticton and the ALR Commission by petition organizer Marko Cucnik.
There are 3.8 hectares (9.3 acres) near Gordon Place up for exclusion. The petition says this is viable farmable land, with a working orchard, vineyards, and a small Christmas tree farm, said Cucnik in the petition.
The developer wants to put in a high-density residential neighbourhood in the ‘heart of Penticton’s agricultural belt,’ reads the petition. The proposal is for 24 single family homes and 11 duplexes.
The property is part of a conditionally-approved ALR exclusion that includes two other properties on Valleyview Road, however due to challenges with achieving the conditions between the three land owners, the applicant is proposing to exclude 610 Pineview Road on its own.
On March 1, after a lengthy public hearing on the matter, city council gave approval and support for the application to go ahead to the Agricultural Land Commission.
Fritz Hollenbach, who has farmed in Penticton for more than 30 years and sat on the city’s agriculture advisory committees for 15, was disappointed in council for approving the exclusion of farmland.
“Mayor and council could have put the brakes on this development themselves by not forwarding it to the ALC. Instead they passed the buck to outsiders,” said Hollenbach.
On Jan. 19, the city’s agricultural advisory committee voted against the proposed development.
Residential development for this property has been proposed since 2005, said city staff and is in the OCP to be developed. The ALC approved a proposal to develop this land in 2011 if conditions were met. Those conditions have not been met.
At the public hearing, one resident of the neighbourhood said they will lose their view of Skaha Lake and had bought two years ago thinking that the orchard in front of them would ensure a permanent view.
Numerous residents of the Pineview Rd. area spoke out against losing farmland.
The applicant for the development said people should have known that this development was in the works and the OCP supported it.
“I’m hearing a lot of people who have just moved here two years ago or whenever, I say they should have done their due diligence because then they would have known this was in the works to develop since 2005,” said the applicant.
Coun. Katie Robinson lives on Pineview Road.
“Not all land within the ALR is farmable. To me this is very clear, if it wasn’t in the OCP we would be in a different ball of wax. But this is straight forward and if people would have done their due diligence they would have known,” said Robinson.
Coun. Julius Bloomfield opposed the application.
“If land is in the ALR you buy farmland. You shouldn’t buy farm land you should expect to sell farm land not develop it,” said Bloomfield.
Mayor John Vassilaki said it should be up to the ALC to decide whether that land should be farmed or developed.