Proposed Summerland development meets community resistance

Proposed Summerland development meets community resistance

Surrey, B.C.-based developer Lark Group is facing pushback in response to its proposed development in Summerland with a petition against the project drawing 1,400 signatures, more than 10 per cent of the town's population.

Resident Donna Wahl says she has "a multitude of concerns" including the location of the project which she describes as "totally wrong."

The Summerland fish hatchery — the oldest in B.C. and one of five freshwater trout hatcheries in the province — depends on an aquifer located directly underneath the proposed site.

"If the water supply is in any way affected ... it could shut the hatchery down forever," said Wahl.

Malek Tawashy, the project development manager at Lark Group, said the developer will actually improve the hatchery's water security by collaborating to address the hatchery's declining water source

"We're actively looking to ... come up with a long-term freshwater supply that will in effect leave the hatchery in a better position," he said.​

Wahl said there's nothing the developers can do to get her on board besides move the project to a different location. She points to blocks of land closer to the downtown core as a better place to develop.

"That's where the majority of our seniors want to be. They don't want to be walking or driving up to town, they want to be in town," she said

Both the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C.(FFSBC) and the Penticton Indian Band (PIB) have written letters against the planned development. PIB Chief Chad Eneas is strongly opposed the development, writing that "the proposed operations have the potential to pose threat and burden to the environment, water, wildlife and our economy and thus impact Silyx Title and Rights." 

The FFSBC wrote that it cannot support the proposal unless its concerns over the creation of a contingency water source are addressed.

"We value every concern"

In Tawashy's mind, proximity to the downtown core is less important than the views of Lake Okanagan.

"It's a beautiful place, and we believe this project can bring a lot of benefits to the community, local businesses and the residents," he said.

According to Tawashy, the pushback is part of the process.

"Any development ... encounters this type of opposition. What's important for us is that many of the concerns and issues that have been raised really go into making a better project," he said. "We value every concern."

Tawashy said his company is in the midst of working with Summerland's municipal staff to address specific concerns.

Wahl is unconvinced.

"The council or the mayor keeps saying they're doing their due diligence, but I question at what point is enough due diligence is done and common sense should take over," she said.

"This could be quite a battle for quite a while."