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New development has potential for 260 homes to be built in next decade
The construction of a new fire hall in the Town of Osoyoos, likely in the spring of 2015, should kick off one of the biggest new real estate developments that has taken place in this community in decades.
Last week, council approved the second and third reading of the “form based” zoning approach to implement the Southeast Meadowlark Area Plan.
There is potential for more than 200 new homes and several multi-unit developments – including a provision to include affordable housing during all phases of construction – over the next 10 to 15 years, said Mayor Stu Wells and Alain Cunningham, the town’s director of planning and development services.
“We’re looking at least 10 years down the road” before the full potential of the SE Meadowlark Plan could be fully developed, said Cunningham.
The proposed 40-acre (16 hectares) development is located west of Hwy. 97 between 74 Avenue and 62 Avenue on a large swath of land that features several dozen houses and huge and bountiful orchards. Several of the homes are located around or near Pfingsttag Pond (sometimes referred to as Kettle Pond).
The proposed zoning amendment will meet the challenges of achieving the town’s vision of making this development an “inclusive and walkable neighbourhood for diverse socio-economic groups of young families with children, singles and couples … and mixed-income households, including a 15 per cent set aside for near market affordable housing,” reads an overview in a 50-page document about the SE Meadowlark Area Plan proposal.
“The latter units which may be purchased or rented at less than market rates will be targeted to moderate-income working households and should nicely complement other efforts to sustain and expand the local economy.”
Much of the housing will be low level, ground entry design suitable for young families and even apartment housing will be low-rise to retain a neighbourhood feel, says the report.
All construction has to meet the medium-density target of 30 dwelling units per hectare. To balance these needs, appropriate and sometimes innovative housing forms will be encouraged, such as small lot single-detached housing with optional carriage homes are the rear, small lot two-family housing with optional walk-out basement suites, row housing with rear or shared parking, four-plexes and apartment buildings up to three storeys maximum in height.
Public input received to this proposal has “generally been favourable” since two staff started working on this project dating back to 2008 and that hasn’t changed following a public information meeting held on July 15 and a public hearing on July 30, said Wells.
“There hasn’t been any real opposition to the plan,” said Wells.
The idea to formulate plans for potential development of this property was two-fold as the town was looking for a site to build a new fire hall and town staff were looking for potential sites to build new homes as there is “very little developable land in this community,” said Wells.
The town paid $2.1 million for a three-hectare chunk of land in this area that has been dubbed the “Richter property” five years ago after a consultant identified it as the best place for the town to build a new fire hall, said Wells.
The plan is to build a new fire hall, likely in the spring of 2015, and 35 new homes on the land being called “the Richter remainder” in an effort to spur development in town, said Wells.
Once the fire hall is built, the town has been given approval by the provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to attract “expressions of interest from developers” to build those 35 homes on land owned by the town, he said.
Because this is prime agricultural land, each and every proposal to expand development in the SE Meadowlark Plan is going to have to be approved by the ALC over the next dozen of so years, said Wells.
“The ALC is very reluctant to take away agricultural land reserves,” said Cunningham. “The town has received exclusion from the reserve on what is called a proven is needed basis.
“We have been given approval to build the new fire hall and Phase I of the new development (35 homes), but we know we’re going to have to go back four or five or six times to get further approvals as more phases come on stream.”
At least five of the 35 homes will have to meet the criteria of “affordable housing” and this provision will remain in place throughout every phase of development, said Cunningham.
The ALC has set conditions during every phase of potential development that includes ensuring there will be less than 30 residents per hectare, at least 15 per cent of residences will be set aside as affordable housing and an “agricultural buffer zone” will be maintained between the western perimeter of the development and the large tract of land leading west towards the Osoyoos Golf Club, he said.
Town staff has proposed future development be phased in by developing “four large chunks” of land in the area, said Wells.
Development would only take place when a large group of homeowners and property owners decide collectively that they are willing to listen to proposals from developers to purchase their land and property, said Cunningham.
The town is willing to act for those property owners when they decide to consider proposals by developers by representing them before the ALC, he said.
“We will be the official applicant on their behalf,” he said. “The town will work with the ALC … we are the ones who will try and demonstrate the given need for this development to proceed.”
“The town will take a leadership role in dealing with the ALC and the type of development we agree we want to see. The individual property owners will decide they see fit to be in charge of the overall land development,”
The fact there hasn’t been any opposition to this proposal from a single homeowner or property owner in the region is very encouraging, said Wells.
The reality is there are very few places in town capable of allowing for the development and this is why the ALC has shown support thus far for a large subdivision of this size and scope, he said.
“We’re excited because there are so few places available in town that we can develop,” he said.
With the new correctional centre set to open in the summer or fall of 2016, many people who will be working there are going to want to purchase new homes and this development has a lot of potential to fill that need, he said.
Any future development would only be approved when homeowners or a potential developer agree to pay for necessary infrastructure, including water and sewer lines, sidewalks and curbs and lighting, he said.
Council is expected to give final approval of the Official Community Plan (OCP) Amendment Bylaw to amend the SE Meadowlark Area Plan at its next meeting on Sept. 3.
BY KEITH LACEY