14 homes and no new land

Castanet, Wayne Moore. Nov 3, 2021

 Several unrelated decisions by Kelowna city council Monday caught the attention of one councillor. Council approved a number of minor two lot subdivisions and one three-storey apartment building that, taken separately, didn't warrant much commentary. But, added together, Coun. Luke Stack said these additions are significant. If all go ahead as planned, he said that will amount to 14 new households within the city without giving up a single square foot of land. 

"Once upon a time, if we were issuing 14 new lots, it wasn't uncommon that they would be a third of an acre so, essentially, we would be using about a five-acre chunk of land to bring 14 new homes into our community," said Stack. "If you're a growing city, you would just chop up another farm, cut out five acres, build a 14-lot subdivision and away you go." However, Monday's series of applications only included building on land presently being used for housing. "In today's series of applications, we're not actually using one extra square foot of land that's isn't already being used for housing. "When you look at our plans for growth as a city, this is quite interesting to see we've got 14 new households, but we're not growing the city land base."

The city has in recent years signalled a shift away from new developments on its outskirts. Earlier this year council rejected a new 680-home subdivision in the Upper Mission in an effort to rein in sprawl.

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Kelowna OCP 2040 Receives Third Reading

 

Kelowna adopts new OCP

Castanet Wayne Moore

Oct 27, 2021

 Kelowna city council has given second and third readings to its new 2040 Official Community Plan.  Once it's signed off by the provincial government, it will come back for adoption.

As soon as the ink dries, council will meet with staff to discuss the first of what Coun. Luke Stack expects will be 40 to 50 amendments to the OCP in the coming few years. The plan will guide the growth of the city over the next two decades.

Following its unanimous vote Tuesday evening, council approved an additional motion to revisit three contentious issues brought forward during the public hearing. Those included a reduction in building heights along Ellis Street downtown from 26 to 20 storeys, concerns raised over the commercial node at The Ponds development in the Upper Mission, and a change in land designation on one particular High Road property from industrial to institutional. The owner of that property acknowledged he will, at some point in time apply to have the property rezoned for a residential development, but stated it would be more difficult to have the rezoning approved going from institutional rather than industrial.

Most of those who spoke during Tuesday's public hearing were supportive of the overall direction of the city's new 20-year roadmap, but voiced some concerns about the more than 300-page document. Several spoke of what they felt were last minute and skeptical moves to change the future land use of some Watt Road properties to a parks designation. However, staff and council agreed the designation would not preclude someone from living in the home, or even selling it at some future point in time. City manager Doug Gilchrist, when questioned, said the city had never expropriated land in order to build a park.

 Another issue concerned language within the document around the city's Heritage Conservation Area. Proponents of the heritage area were concerned the OCP signaled open season on redevelopment of the area using the term "discourage" when talking about potential development applications. There were concerns the OCP would allow for four-plexes, row houses, low-rise apartment and other uses within the heritage area. "The OCP does support the Heritage Conservation Area, and statements that the OCP is opening up that area to allow more higher density development is inaccurate," said OCP planner Robert Miles.

 "It's important to remember this OCP is different from the previous plan in that it relies much more on an understanding of the policies that inform its directions rather than simply the land use mapping. "The OCP is quite clear that we don't want to see that scale of development in that area." City clerk Stephen Fleming also reminded council the OCP document is "a bit of a unique creature," in that, while the province requires it be adopted as a bylaw, it is merely a policy document. "It is not a regulatory bylaw such as a zoning bylaw for example," said Fleming. "You'll have a series of policy statements on a whole bunch of different things in the OCP, but they are policy statements. Staff use them to make decisions whether they support or don't support an application." In in the case of some complex applications, Fleming says some OCP policies may support a particular application while others may not, which becomes the decision making process council will wrestle with.

 

Despite those tweaks which may follow in the coming weeks, council raved about the direction of the OCP and the work staff put in to bring it to life. "This is probably staff's finest hour," said Coun. Charlie Hodge. "They should be very proud of themselves...I'm proud of them. This is a winning, go forward, brilliant plan for the future of Kelowna." Those sentiments were echoed around the table.

 "I think this is a very progressive document that has taken our city to the next logical step after OCP 2030," said Coun. Luke Stack. "I think it's very visionary, and it's very respectful of the entire community. It's trying to bring into balance some of the issues the development community has and the people that want to protect our neighbourhoods, and trying to balance the change in growth with a new way of looking at it."

Mayor Colin Basran summed up council's feeling, saying a perfect policy document will never be created but said given the fact council heard from both sides and not a lot from the middle shows they "got it right."

"I get the trepidation of some, especially those who build homes for a living, but this OCP needed to send a signal that we have to do things differently," said Basran. "I think it does that, but I am comforted by the fact we are going to get regular updates to see how we're trending, and we will adjust accordingly."

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Kelowna looking to create major new beach park on Okanagan Lake

Infotel Rob Munro

July 13, 2021

Led by councillor Luke Stack, Kelowna city council resisted a strong lobbying effort by eight Okanagan Lake waterfront land owners on Watt Road and designated their properties as future parkland. But it might take decades to buy and develop the land. 

“If we really do believe that this is part of what we need as a community, we should have enough courage and stand up and say, 'this is what we need,'” Stack said near the end of an hour-long discussion over the land at city council's meeting Monday, July 12.

 “What I think has happened here is that we have eight really vocal property owners who don’t want anything to change,” Mayor Colin Basran added. “This is an ideal spot for a future waterfront park – the connectivity and the proximity to a major urban centre – it just all makes sense. It’s a great beach.”

 City staff are nearing the end of a years-long process to write a new Official Community Plan.

 They decided the eight eight properties on Watt Road would make an ideal park because it has a sandy beach that is protected from erosion. It’s just north of the popular Boyce Gyro beach and south of a new Pandosy Waterfront Park that’s under construction at Cedar Avenue.

 Information packages were sent to the eight property owners last fall, staff has met and talked with them since then. Given their strong opposition, staff took the matter to council yesterday suggesting the city only buy two of the lots and revisit the idea of buying all eight when it drafts a new parks plan some time in the future.

 That sparked an intense lobbying effort by the property owners over the past weekend. They told councillors, among other things, that it would drastically reduce their property values, they were not properly informed about the proposed changes and that city staff threatened expropriation.

 Staff told council they never made an expropriation threat but couldn’t rule out some future council deciding to go that route.

 The designation means the property owners can develop their land any way they want under the current single-family zoning and don’t ever have to sell to the city.

 It reminded Coun. Stack of the flack council took years ago over properties the city bought around Cedar Avenue when it proposed selling some of the land to pay for construction of the park. “We really had our feet held to the fire by many people in the community saying you guys are just not listening to the public,” Stack said. “'You’re not designating this the way it’s supposed to be. We demand, we demand all of this land to be park. Don’t even consider building something on it.'

 “After we got thoroughly thrashed, we finally said 'OK.' The will of the public was: 'we want to protect these properties for parkland’ and that’s what we ultimately did, even though we knew we didn’t have the resources to build it. “Now I find we’re getting pressure to say: 'Don’t be transparent. Don’t put it on the table. Don’t let the community know these could be future parklands. We want to keep it off the table. We don’t want to discuss this stuff.' “I’m thinking, how can we do that. If we’re thinking this is what the community needs for our long-term growth in the Pandosy area, to ask us now to put this off the table for 20 more years, we don’t even want to talk about it, I think is completely disingenuous. I think we need to say, do we believe in acquiring quality property for the general public of our city. We know we’re growing. We know we’re going to need some of this.”

 In the end, only Coun. Charlie Hodge – saying the consultation process was flawed – voted against designating all eight properties as future parkland.

 Another parcel, on the east side of Watt Road, was also designated parkland to allow a connection to Walnut Avenue and the new Pandosy Waterfront Park. It’s estimated that it will cost $30 million at today’s prices to buy the nine properties. That’s usually done when they are put up for sale. Once one or two of the lots are purchased, it may be possible to develop those as parks and open the beach to public access but that’s a decision to be made in the future.

 Right now, a retaining wall at the north end prevents public access along the shoreline.

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E-scooters - Council is prepared to pull the plug

Kelowna council is prepared to pull the plug on shared e-scooters if problems persist

Council hope scooters work

Kelowna city council has a message for shared e-scooter companies.

Get your act together - follow the rules, or the pilot program approved April 19 will be short lived.

Companies were given what amounted to a second chance Monday, when council approved a second set of restrictions designed to make the scooters safer and more of a transportation mode.

The new restrictions, on top of 19 brought in just two weeks ago, include:

  • Capping the number of e-scooters allowed regardless of service providers, to 700
  • Capping the number downtown to no more than 30 per cent of a provider's fleet
  • Restricting access to the waterfront from the City Park underpass to Rotary Marsh, and along the section of Bernard closed to traffic during the summer months
  • Shutting down service downtown from 10:30 p.m. until 4 a.m.
  • Implement all restrictions by July 1 or have license pulled (companies can reapply once restrictions are met)

After nearly 90 minutes, council was split 6-3 in favour of the restrictions with councillors Maxine DeHart, Charlie Hodge and Brad Sieben voting against.

But, those in favour warned if problems persist and complaints persist, they won't hesitate to pull the plug when if comes time to review the program in the fall.

"My first and foremost concern is safety, and that's been the driver of my feeling about this," said Coun. Luke Stack, who said Monday's recommendations addressed concerns of council more effectively.

"I know it can be a fun item for people visiting our city, but safety is primary. I don't want to see any serious injuries, nor do I want to see any fatalities."

But, it was Coun. DeHart who struck the loudest blow against the scooters, saying she has lost faith in those companies providing shared e-scooters.

"Already they are not complying," she said in reference to at least one company which was allowing them to be used after 10:30 p.m.

"That really bothered me - I actually lost sleep over that. How can we trust them."

DeHart says Dr. Steven Krywulak, chief of orthopedic surgery at KGH who called the scooters fracture machines in an interview with Castanet, told her other doctors are seeing the same things he is.

"I am only one doctor, DeHart quoted Dr. Krywulak. "There are lots of us, a lot orthopedic surgeons, so it's not just me."

DeHart says she is concerned for the what this may mean for the hospital with the expected busy summer on the horizon.

Coun. Sieben, who was on the fence, but reluctantly in favour, changed his mind and voted with DeHart as did Coun. Hodge, who was concerned the recommendations and restrictions did not mention helmet use.

Only Lime had initially indicated it could make the necessary changes by June 30, however, a second company has now indicated it may be ready as well.

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Plans for 650 homes at Kelowna's southern edge rejected by council

Kelowna Daily Courier

RON SEYMOUR

Mar 1, 2021

Plans for 680 new homes in the Upper Mission were blocked Monday by Kelowna city council. Councillors voted 7-2 against development of the Thomson Flats area, agreeing with municipal planners' objection that the development amounted to an unwanted form of urban sprawl.

1thomson flatsThe project would have increased greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles being driven long distances, further stressed city roads, and saddled taxpayers with increased cost for municipal infrastructure, councillors said. "We can't keep doing things the same way anymore," Mayor Colin Basran said as council turned aside development plans for the 255 ha. area at the southernmost edge of the city's boundary. "Continuing to grow at our boundaries isn't the appropriate location for development," said Coun. Gail Given.

 Thomson Flats has been identified in city planning documents since the mid-1990s as an urban reserve area, meaning it was considered suitable for housing. But municipal planners say notions of good development have changed since then, with cities more focused on higher-density housing in established town centres and existing neighbourhoods.

"What's good for the environment for our city? What's good for our greenhouse gas initiatives? What's good for minimizing trips?" asked Coun. Luke Stack. "Staff has done a very detailed examination of what the implications would be for the overall growth of the city (if Thomson Flats was opened for housing)."

Coun. Brad Sieben voted against plans to block the development. He suggested more deliberation was in order, particularly on subjects such as traffic impact. "There's too many unanswered questions," agreed Coun. Mohini Singh, who also voted against blocking the project.

Would-be developers had rejected characterization of the Thomson Flats project as urban sprawl, saying it should be seen rather as a long-planned and desirable form of suburban infill next to the established communities of Kettle Valley, the Ponds, and Southridge. "It's part of a plan that started 35 years ago," Andrew Bruce, a spokesman for the Thomson Flats landowners, said in an interview last week. "There's servicing capacity at the doorstep, and it completes roads and trails and parks that were planned long ago and which will integrate well into the existing neighbourhoods."

 

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Kelowna pledges to convert 10 per cent of its light-duty vehicle fleet to zero-emission by 2023

Committing to green fleet

The City of Kelowna says it will convert at least 10 per cent of its light-duty vehicle fleet to zero-emission vehicles within the next two years.

That's a pledge the city is making to the provincial government as part of a new funding program announced at the beginning of the month.

"The new funding program has everything from training, advisory services, rebates for fleet assessments and facility infrastructure assessments," says infrastructure operations manager Ian Wilson.

He says there is also money available to implement some of those changes, including upgrades to the city's charging infrastructure, which he says will need to be undertaken as the city moves to more and more electric type vehicles.

At the present time, Wilson says the city has a wide range of zero, or low emission vehicles within its fleet, born out of a sustainability policy dating back nearly a decade.

"We have 21 hybrids in the city fleet. We have eight electric vehicles, one plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

"We have some low speed electric vehicles. We also have a bike fleet and a-some electric bikes."

Wilson says the city is also looking at other means of lowering greenhouse gas emissions from its vehicle fleet, including R100, which is a 100 per cent renewable diesel fuel.

He says Kelowna is the only city outside Vancouver receiving the fuel.

In addition, he says the city is keeping an eye on the hydrogen fuel cell market.

A station is coming to Kelowna some time this year, however, Wilson says the unknown is cost.

"The value is how it's derived. Blue hydrogen is derived from natural gas. Typically, 80 to 90 per cent lower emissions," said Wilson.

"There is green hydrogen which is derived from water using electricity. It has theoretically zero emissions."

Coun. Luke Stack commended the city's actions, calling them commendable as it tries achieve a target of 12 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions than in 2007 by next year.

"Sometimes I get a bit discouraged with the progress we're making on greenhouse gas reduction, but I can see now after a number of years of focusing on this how the city and staff have been able to inch our way forward," said Stack.

"I am very pleased to see more and more options coming forward. I think over the next two years we are going to see a game changer on all kinds of vehicles that will be available," he added, pointing to GM and other automobile manufacturers who are moving more and more of their vehicles to electric.

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Kelowna councillors reject human rights push for fewer police

Kelowna Daily Courier

Alistair Waters

Feb 13, 2021

 A call by B.C.’s human rights commissioner to deploy fewer police officers and use the money saved to pay for infrastructure and services to make communities safer, including more housing, is not garnering any support from Kelowna city councillors. “I don’t personally think it’s a case of one or the other,” said Coun. Gail Given. She said in Kelowna’s case, the need for more RCMP officers is pressing and is being addressed by council, while city partnerships with other organizations and the province is helping provide more social housing. 

Kasari Govender spoke to the all-party committee currently reviewing B.C.’s Police Act on Thursday and told it the homeless and those in poverty have far more interactions with police. As such, police should be “de-tasked” where possible and the money saved used for housing and other services. But Given said in a growing community like Kelowna, more cops are needed to meet growing demand. Kelowna is currently the fast-growing city in the province and fourth fastest in Canada, according to recent statistics. But prevailing wisdom at City Hall says Kelowna is playing catch-up in numbers of officers after years of being under-serviced. As a result, council has steadily added more RCMP and bylaw officers in recent years, as well as more civilian support staff.

This year, the city will add eight more cops, with 11 more approved in the 2020 city budget. Currently there are 202 full-time RCMP officer positions funded by the city. In the last four years, a total of 42 officers were added to Kelowna’s RCMP detachment, in addition to nine additional bylaw officers and 36 support staff. But the police have not been the only focus, said Coun. Luke Stack. He said the city has been successful in getting the province to build social housing here. Since 2017, 269 new units of social housing have been built in developments across the city. Additional shelters have also been opened, albeit often amid controversy as area residents have, in most cases, opposed their location. Stack said the human rights commissioner’s call sounded to him like a “simplistic solution to a complex problem. … In Kelowna, we need more police officers,” he said. “We have been underserved. But we also need to do more to help people on the streets.” He noted Kelowna’s Journey Home initiative, with its goal of 300 more housing units for the homeless over five years and the push by Mayor Colin Basran as part of the B.C. Mayor’s Caucus for more complex care housing, as just two examples.

 Coun. Ryan Donn said because the city pays for policing, and social housing is a provincial responsibility, simply cutting back on one does not mean the money saved from one would automatically go to the other. He said the city typically provides land for provincial social housing projects as part of its partnership with B.C. Housing, and over the next few years plans to triple the amount it spends on land for those projects. That would bring the total to $600,000.

 Both Coun. Mohini Singh and Maxine DeHart, echoed the sentiment that social housing should not be provided at the expense of hiring more police officers in the city. “I would not be in favour of robbing the number of officers to pay for housing,” said DeHart, adding it’s a complex issue, not one of simply passing money from one area to another.

 Mayor Colin Basran, and councillors Charlie Hodge, Brad Sieben and Loyal Wooldridge could not be reached for comment prior to deadline.

 

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Central Green Completes

Final Phase of Central Green Approved

AM 1150 Baillie VickersMonday, February 8th 2021

Kelowna city council approved the final stage for the Central Green development on Monday, located on the former KSS site at the corner of Richter St. and HWY 97. It marks the end of a decade long discussion that saw several changes to planning and the minds of council over the years.

 The final step of the project includes two 6 ½ storey buildings and 214 rental suites with what staff say will be four commercial tenants. Mayor Colin Basran said though the proposal now looks much different than initial plans, the intention was ultimately met.

 "We have met the density targets, it has been at the expensive of less commercial, retail and office space but I’m OK with that given its proximity to downtown. Then you just have to just think ‘overall what is the benefits to the community in this particular instance?’ Rowcliffe Park is beautiful and we forget about the supportive housing that is in this, which again is so vital and I might add that supportive housing integrates with zero problems to the neighbourhood."

 The final build out of the project will include 748 units, including 527 rentals (125 for supportive housing) and 221 condos for sale. Broken down, it covers micro-suites, studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

Councillor Luke Stack said the project fulfills their vision of downtown residential living. "This was a plan to stimulate that and show that living in the urban centers was a viable option. The inner courtyard is really lovely and in the renderings it shows this beautiful spaces which again was the concept of some nice outdoor shared space and the road improvements of HWY 97 with the turn onto Richter and the overpass are major gains for this area.”

Central Green will eventually be connected to Downtown Kelowna by a highway overpass designated for walking and cycling.

Councillor Charlie Hodge, who cast the soul vote against, opposed the project saying it didn't have the "wow factor" or include 3-bedroom suites for small families.

Councillor Gail Given applauded the overall build.

“I love the landscape plan, I think the plaza will be quite beautiful and I'm really excited for when we have a pedestrian overpass that can connect our residents safely to our downtown core. We are getting more and more residential on the southern side of the highway and I think this will be an amazing connection to the employment hub of the downtown centre.”

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year.

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Budget 2021

Castanet: December 10, 2020

Coun. Mohini Singh called it a 'no frills budget," while Mayor Colin Basran called it fiscally prudent, one he will have no problem defending to taxpayers.

Following a lengthy review, council settled on a provisional budget which includes a 4.04 per cent tax increase.

That's down slightly from the proposed increase of 4.27 per cent.

But, without assistance from the provincial government, Coun. Luke Stack says city taxpayers would have been looking at a very different scenario.

"What really saved our bacon is the Safe Restart program that came in at $7.88 million," said Stack.

"If we did not have those funds coming in to the city, we would be in a very tough situation.

"Just imagine if we had to reduce our services by $7 million, or raise taxes to cover that additional $7 million, we would be looking at a very frightening scenario, so hats off to our provincial partners."

Council made only two changes to the financial document staff presented. After much deliberation, council agreed to fund a newly created Champion of the Environment staff position and a building master plan from reserves rather than taxation.

Both items were debated a couple of times before city manager Doug Gilchrist suggested reserves could be used for the initiatives staff felt were very important going forward.

In defending the building master plan, deputy city manager Joe Creron said it was one of the most important items in the budget document. He says the city has more than 127 buildings that are getting old and need the city's attention.

After additional deliberation, council also agreed to fully fund the final two phases of city hall renovations, which included $526,000 funded by the taxpayers.

Staff indicated commercial construction prices are low right now and, by doing both projects together, estimate an overall savings of 25 to 30 per cent.

An additional $100,000 for the Journey Home Society will remain a Priority 2 item, however, council may agree to fund it before final budget once they hear further rational from the society in the new year.

Council was sympathetic to the society after learning they will likely not ever quality for charitable status, which closes the door on several other funding and grant opportunities.

The 4.04 per cent increase means the owner of an average $691,000 home will pay an additional $85 in municipal taxes in 2021.

"We utilized our rainy day fund for the 2020 budget," said Basran.

"It would have been nice to utilize reserves for more, but we don't have that ability, so as a result of that, I think we passed a very responsible budget for a community that still continues to grow.

"And, where people still demand exceptional service, and in an organization where the services we provide are essential."

Basran also reminded taxpayers that, unlike senior levels of government, municipalities are not permitted to run a deficit.

The budget did include the additional of eight new RCMP officers as well as three staff positions. The eight officers, who likely won't arrive until later next year, bring to 19 approved by council since the release of the Griffiths Report a year ago.

That report suggested the city hire as many as 56 new officers by 2025 in order to catch up to staffing demands.

The budget could still change slightly between now and final budget in May.

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Remembrance day - 2020

Although we cannot gather together on November 11, 2020 to remember those who serve and served; we can take a moment to vist the field of crosses in Kelowna City Park to have a moment of remembrance. Gail Given, Loyal Wooldridge and I did so today. "Lest we forget."

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