Stripping away emotions to reveal the naked truth

Making news again is the debate over Three Mile Beach. There has been a long history of an area of Three Mile Beach being “clothing optional”; however that was on private lands adjacent to the public beach. That private land changed ownership, kick-starting a chain of events where both sides could not see eye-to-eye.

City council had a delegation appear from the neighborhood, who painted a picture of potential decreased property values, inappropriate activity and how a naked 60-year-old man and young children in the same area don't mix. The next meeting council heard from the naturists refuting the inappropriate behaviour, stating they were a self-policing community, and suggesting signage to warn people it was a clothing optional beach.

Often City Council is asked to help resolve community and neighborhood unrest or disagreements. Like many communities, Penticton's Bylaw Services enforcement is complaint driven – taking action when someone notifies them of an alleged bylaw infraction. These bylaws are put into place not to punish people, but to offer guidelines on how we can enjoy the community together peacefully with respect for each other.

The challenge often becomes that Bylaw enforcement becomes a tool used in spite. Many calls are made in anger, and enforcement can pit neighbours against each other. Some situations can be easily resolved. Like with Three Mile Beach, though, it can become a drawn out situation with he said-she said exchanges.

The same phenomenon is often seen during public hearings. Typically when the public comes to public hearings or as a delegation, they first state that they are not against development or a proposal; however they oppose the location of it in their “backyard.” Often Council will hear residents predict decreased property values, increased traffic and unwelcome changes to the neighborhood.

People speak with tremendous passion, emotion and conviction on their views of the issue; however they rarely offer a compromise or solution.

At Three Mile Beach, each camp is very polarized and of the opinion that their view is correct – so correct, that it shouldn't have to be challenged. Instead of meeting as a collective to understand each side's concern, and offer solutions or compromises, both have asked Council to step in.

Council is being asked to weigh in on interpretations of family and social values, which may be different depending on your background or beliefs. Personal freedoms are one thing, but the actions of a few can ruin it for others.

Of all the things Penticton should be focussing on, it is frustrating to have this issue gaining so much attention. The media joke that this is the gift that keeps on giving; there are multiple angles and lots of drama to the story to keep it in the spotlight. It is a no win situation for the City – we are either crudes or prudes – but it is in front of us nonetheless.

Our challenge is to strip away emotions and deal with the naked truth – based on our own core values, ethics and life lessons. This won't be the last contentious issue we deal with, and we appreciate everyone's opinion and respectful dialogue as we move forward.