Councillors question Commonage concept

Attempts to prevent future development in the Commonage aren’t being embraced at city hall.

Attempts to prevent future development in the Commonage aren’t being embraced at city hall.

The North Okanagan Natural Areas Preservation Committee asked Vernon council Monday to initiate a land use plan for the Commonage and to bring zoning for the area in line with the rest of the city.

However, Coun. Buffy Baumbrough says that while preservation of the area is ideal, the reality is  that private property rights must be considered.

“I am not entirely convinced what they are proposing will address their concerns,” she said of NONAP.

“Even if we go to city zoning, property owners can still subdivide.”

NONAP is upset that council recently agreed to issue a development variance permit for a 28-lot subdivision on 242 hectares near Chum Road. It includes one 80.9-hectare lot.

Under existing zoning, which dates back to when the area was still part of the regional district,  rural subdivision is permitted even without the variance permit.

NONAP says that council’s recent decision on the 28-lot subdivision prompted its calls for action for the remainder of the Commonage, which includes grasslands and wildlife habitat.

“Our major concern is the future of the area known as the Commonage,” said Rod Drennan, spokesperson.

Drennan says an area plan would determine long-term land uses, while there is a need to abandon regional district zoning and bring the area in compliance with city zoning.

“We want an open and effective public process,”  he said.

Discussions have been held between NONAP and city staff.

“We discussed the official community plan as it stands and zoning that may differ from official community plan designations,” said planner Dale Rintoul of the difference between zoning and land use designation.

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe is concerned about the perception NONAP may create about city hall.

“We are committed to protecting sensitive areas and we understand the values of the Commonage,”  she said, adding that the 28-lot subdivision will be rural in nature and consist of large acreages.

“The public had an opportunity to purchase the property and the public decided at the time it didn’t have enough value to buy. Now, we’re being told it has value but now it’s private land.”