Plans for sprawl in BC's desert hits a dry patch

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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Okanagan developers search for local real-estate suitable for new single-family home developments

We've written a lot on this blog over the last several months regarding the negative impacts of urban sprawl on the environment. Most recently, my colleague Mike Klassen wrote this editorial about how developers are building on almost every part of the Okanagan's fire prone districts, with little regard to the fact that it's a bone dry desert.

In cities like Kelowna and Kamloops, urban sprawl has become a way of life. Pressure from both increased population and developers wanting to construct new single family homes has led to subdivisions being approved in areas at high risk of forest fires. For example, a 2000-unit development including a golf course was given the rubber stamp in the neighbouring desert community of Peachland.

That's why a story in The Province newspaper today regarding one Okanagan community which said no to a massive 700-home, $1.8 billion dollar project comes as a major surprise. You'd think the current recession coupled with the Okanagan's penchant for approving sprawl developments would have meant this project was a slam dunk. Not so this time.

One man who is not happy about the decision to veto this massive development is Lake Country District Mayor James Baker. Here is what he told the Sun:

I think it's a sad story, but I guess there are some people who are cheering it. Peachland's just signed up a deal with Greg Norman for a golf and residential complex with a golf course and 2,000 houses.

In what sounds like a slap in the face to the Lake Country District (situated between Kelowna and Vernon, B.C.), the developer stated:

We've got another community that is very happy to see us take that development there ...

He wouldn't name the community, however, therein lies the problem with growth and sprawl in BC's interior. Despite the fact they are running out of water, face a massive forest fire threat and are being ravaged by the pine beetle disease, the Okanagan seems to have an endless number of civic officials who see sprawl as their way toward economic prosperity.

It must have been a tough decision on the part of local officials to say no to sprawl and 400 temporary jobs, but it was clearly the right thing to do. If BC's interior stands a chance of remaining on of the most liveable places on Earth, it will need to ensure future growth is done in smart way that minimizes the impact on the environment and reduces the risk of forest fire impacts. Unfortunately, there haven't been too many examples of that in recent years.

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I live in a small ocean side community on Vancouver Island. We were the target of a Max Tomesewski proposed development a couple of years ago. The majority of residents opposed Max's plans because they were totally at odds with the current community zoning. Max stretched the approval process out for a full two years before admitting defeat and blaming everyone but himself. These Okanagan residents did the right thing. They dodged a bullet.

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