Land-use extension near Penticton, B.C. sparks concern from neighbours


New legislation was recently proposed to allow for the continued operation of the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory near Penticton, B.C. The proposal has sparked some concern from many members of a nearby community, St. Andrew’s by the Lake, who say they weren’t included in the consultation process.“It’s not a contract with the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory. It’s a contract between the original developer at St. Andrew’s,” said St. Andrew’s general manager Eric Buchstein.“There are people that are angry here. I am fielding questions on a regular basis that say, ‘How can they do this without even talking to us, did they talk to you?’ and I have to say, ‘No, sorry they didn’t talk to me. Did they talk to anyone at St. Andrew’s?’ Unfortunately, no, not a single soul.” Story continues below advertisement According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, the proposed legislation follows a request by the federal government and is supported by the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS). Twenty-one First Nations were also consulted.“A land use contract is similar to a zoning bylaw in that it is applicable to a geographic area, not a specific person or property,” said the RDOS in an email to Global News.“LUC-6-D does include a small portion of the St. Andrew’s development, but any question on consultation or the process leading up to provincial legislation should be referred to the province.”In response to questions about the consultation process, the ministry said the province consulted with the RDOS on behalf of St. Andrew’s.“St. Andrew’s is located within RDOS Electoral Area ‘I’, which is represented by an electoral area director. An electoral area director provides local government representation at the RDOS Board for the St. Andrew’s community members as well as unincorporated communities within that electoral area,” read the Ministry of Municipal Affairs statement.“Prior to tabling Bill 6, the province consulted with RDOS staff, who brought the matter to the RDOS Board for consideration. Ministry of Municipal Affairs.” 1:18 Radio Astrophysical Observatory seeks land-use extension Meanwhile, Buchstein says the community is not against protecting the observatory but says the specifics of the contract are outdated. Trending Now Story continues below advertisement Land-use contracts were allowed in B.C., in the 1970s as site-specific contracts between local governments and landowners.“We love the observatory; we went for a tour with the manager. They are doing fantastic stuff, cutting edge, and internationally-respected. Our issue isn’t with them in any way. What we want is an agreement that isn’t 50 years old,” said Buchstein.“It would be nice to have the conversation and with that, we should be at that table. We should be talking about what that means and why there should be changes to the agreement.”The agreement provides special protections to minimize disruptions to the observatory.Those protections include a limit on the number of nearby housing developments and a ‘Radio Quiet Area’ that limits the use of devices like microwaves and cellphones.“To talk about 1973 microwaves is kind of ridiculous — not the same machine. I’m not allowed to use my teeth-cleaning thing because it’s got some sort of radiofrequency interfering signals coming out of it or what about my Alexa, what about Wi-Fi? What about all the other stuff in the community,” added Buchstein.“All we want is to have a conversation with the various levels of government. If those microwaves aren’t an issue then we should be talking about what is an issue. If the house building that is going on, and will be going on, if that’s an issue we should be having that conversation.” Story continues below advertisement 2:03 Surrey family tries to save farmland from development According to Buchstein, under the original contract from 1973, St. Andrew’s is allowed 150 homes. As of right now, there are 93, and approximately 25 that are under construction.This contract could stop future development or restrict to the 150.“Most of the houses are built in that danger zone, if you will. Instead of building 50 more houses in that zone, we should be looking perhaps at moving the development outside of the zone,” said Buchstein.Land-use contracts in B.C. are set to expire in 2024. However, this new legislation may act as an exemption.“This is provincial territory with federal radio waves, and they can’t make the rules to govern what goes on to regional districts,” said Buchstein. Story continues below advertisement “The provincial government says OK, well instead of us figuring it out, we’re going to extend the agreement for 10 more years to buy time. And that’s understandable, I can’t imagine another way except perhaps to sit down and make another private agreement.” 2:18 White Lake Observatory near Penticton welcomes guests &copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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