Realtor urges council to rethink housing project in wetland

By on November 21, 2017

Realtor Eileen McGinn shows the flooding mess in a wetland site slated for a housing development on Lakeshore Drive. She wants council to rethink it. (Keith Lacey photo)

Severe flooding that has caused a “muddy mess” over the last two weeks has a local real estate agent and land developer urging Town of Osoyoos council to reconsider its support of a 14-acre housing development along Lakeshore Drive.

The proposed development, which was approved by council in April, would be located on marshland across from the Walnut Beach Resort.

Council approved a scaled-down project after dozens of neighbours and business owners who live near or conduct business along Lakeshore Drive attended two public hearings last February and March to voice their concerns about the development.

The size of the project approved by council was reduced from between 282-316 units to 196-208 units and tourist accommodation units from 210-244 to be built in two four-storey towers, reduced to 38-42 units in two two-storey towers.

The developer, Richard Coglon of RLC Strategic Capital Management Corp. from Vancouver, must now complete a thorough environmental assessment and riparian wetlands report before the project can proceed.

Osoyoos realtor Eileen McGinn, who along with her husband Wayne have developed dozens of housing developments over the past 35 years, attended both public meetings to voice her concerns over the project.

After severe flooding the past two weeks has resulted in large sections of the marshland turned into huge piles of mud, water flowing across sections of Lakeshore Drive and two large ponds become home to a wide array of ducks, geese, beavers and other waterfowl and animals, McGinn is adamant this housing development should not proceed as approved.

“My whole thing is I don’t believe this should ever have been changed from parkland and a natural wetlands area,” said McGinn. “Me and my husband have been developing housing projects for many, many years … and in my opinion, this project should not proceed.

“The last thing we should be doing is destroying natural habitat and allowing a large housing development on this property.”

While McGinn agrees more housing is needed in Osoyoos and she isn’t necessarily against development at this site, she strongly believes only a few houses and/or apartment units should be built, while retaining the natural beauty of the two large retaining ponds and surrounding area.

“There is a way to build some new housing at this site, but keep it natural beauty,” she said. “We’ve had some serious flooding in this area the past two weeks … and right now it’s a total eyesore with water and mud all over the place.

“We have to find out where all this water is coming from before any construction is allowed to begin.”

It’s believed piping that normally drains the ponds on the proposed development site were clogged because of beavers cutting down trees in the area and the developer brought in crews to pump water from the area last week.

Jim Dinwoodie, the Town’s director of operational services, said public works crews from the Town were not involved.

“Town crews were not involved in the pumping of any water from the existing ponds on the site nor were we involved in the construction of the berms on Lakeshore Drive,” said Dinwoodie. “This work was undertaken by the property owner’s contractors alone and any mess created by their efforts is their responsibility to clean up.  Operational Services will continue to monitor the situation and encourage the developer to properly maintain the boulevards along Lakeshore Drive.”

McGinn said she has personally observed trucks and equipment from the developer get stuck in the mud on more than one occasion over the past couple of weeks.

“I watched a Bobcat that was building a berm to keep the water from crossing the road get stuck in the mud,” she said. “It’s just a mess down there now. Can you imagine what might happen if this muddy swamp was a construction site?”

McGinn, who lives nearby several hundred metres south of the flooded area on Lakeshore Drive in the Sonora Ridge subdivision, said many neighbours she has talked to share her concerns

The best thing council did in relation to this project is ordering an independent environmental assessment report before any construction can begin.

She’s confident that report will indicate allowing a large housing development on acres of swampland that will destroy vast amounts of natural wetlands and habitat is not acceptable.

“I’m really looking forward to that report,” she said. “I personally don’t see how they will be able to justify a project of that size that will destroy so much beautiful wetlands.

“There are a large number of beavers that have moved into those ponds, There are dozens of ducks, Blue Heron and all kinds of other waterfowl living there right now. It’s just not suitable for major development.”

There are numerous houses located above the proposed development on the Town’s East Bench that operate 40-year-old water and septic systems and when those systems fail, the excess water and sewage is going to head directly towards this area, said McGinn.

Huge amounts of water also pour down into the proposed site from Anarchist Mountain during heavy rainfall and spring runoff, she said.

“We have to find some way of diverting this huge amount of water before any construction should be allowed,” she said.

McGinn reiterated she’s not against development in Town or at this site, but says allowing the development as approved by council in April is not acceptable in her opinion.

“I don’t want to come across as against this development because I’m not,” she said. “But I am against destroying these beautiful wetlands and natural area for a project that is just too big.

“It’s all about balancing nature with economic development. There are so many different parts of Town that have done this quite nicely and that’s what should happen here. It can’t always just be about the almighty dollar.’

As approved by council, Phases 1 and 2 of the project will involve constructing homes along the lower middle bench for single-family and two-family dwellings. Phases 3 and 4 would follow on the low side of the property close to Lakeshore Drive, each with a two-storey residential/commercial complex located, respectively, south and north of the two large ponds.

Phase 5 would see single-family homes built along the large slope on the southern edge of the property, while the final three phases would be developed along the supper slope and feature a mix of multiple family and multiple housing in terraced townhouse formats.

It’s expected to take 10 to 15 years to complete the project.

KEITH LACEY

Osoyoos Times

The Lakeshore Drive site of a proposed housing development is a wetland teeming with ducks, geese, beavers, blue herons and other wildlife. Realtor Eileen McGinn says she’s not opposed to development, but she thinks this project is unsuitable. (Richard McGuire photo)

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