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Battle over future of Naramata Bench continues

Residents still not happy with proposed changes to the areas zoning and Official Community Plan
Residents in the Naramata Bench continue to fight to have higher density development of the region limited. (Preserve Naramata Bench photo)

Almost five years after a proposal to put a large-scale housing development on the Naramata Bench drove dozens to rally in front of Penticton City Hall, residents are still fighting to preserve their vision of the area.

The city recently wrapped up its first phase of public input on changes to its Official Community Plan and zoning bylaws.

Some of those changes were welcomed, but for some residents, the changes didn’t go far enough to keep the character of the Naramata Bench intact.

“What’s disheartening is that at the same time as you’re taking a bunch of land out of there as a growth area – which sounds great because that was so weird – they’ve got hundreds of acres currently zoned Forestry Grazing with 16-hectare lots or agriculture with two-hectare minimums,” said Gjoa Taylor, one of the founders of the Preserve Naramata Bench advocacy group.

“But the future land use says rural residential with a density of one hectare, or one acre if you have water and sewer.”

The future land use designation continues to be a concern for the group, even after the city’s proposed changes removed the bench as a future growth area.

That previous designation was a key point of contention from residents after it was used to argue in support of bringing forward the Canadian Horizons developments to Spiller Road in 2020 and 2022.

The first phase of public input for the changes wrapped up on April 14, with a second public meeting with further changes planned in May, city spokesperson Shane Mills said.

“The goal is to have the updated Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw completed by June,” said Mills.

“At this time, staff are still reviewing all the public feedback in preparation for the final proposed changes.”

The main focus for residents and supporters of the Preserve Naramata Bench group is to see the corridors of rural residential land use designations changed to agricultural, to match the rest of the bench.

They hope the change in designation would prevent proposals being brought forward like the 33-unit subdivision on Reservoir Road.

“It’s so confusing because people don’t even know that there’s a disconnect between zoning and the future land use in the OCP,” said Taylor.

“They’ve heard the community now for years in so many different ways, and we’re telling them to leave the zoning alone.

“It’s not the place for future development, you’ve got lots of that within the city.”

Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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