Kelowna can choose to grow up smart

I spotted this Letter to the Editor in May 2022. I agree with Dave Crawford, the author. He has captured my perspective on how Kelowna should grow. Thanks Dave!

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Dear Mayor and Council

Dear Mr. Mayor and Council,

                 We strongly believe that a Community is only as strong as its most vulnerable. The Kelowna Gospel Mission asks you to accept this letter and petition of Gratitude for the immense work, dedication and effort being put forward by you, the Mayor, your incredible council and your planning team. Your “Journey Home” plan is one of the most comprehensive plans we have seen to date. It shows how much work and thought the City of Kelowna has  put into dealing with the complex needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

While we all celebrate Kelowna’s ever growing success and the extraordinary work Mayor Basran has been doing in advocating the complex needs of our most vulnerable with the Urban Mayor’s Caucus. We also recognize that that success can come with road blocks. These obstructions include higher housing and living costs. In addition, strains have been placed on our services and infrastructure, such as healthcare, emergency services and mental health provider needs. The “Journey Home” approach seems to tackle all of the issues with short, medium and long term solutions. This ensures our most vulnerable don’t fall through the cracks.

We the workers whose job it is to care for these people would like to convey our immense gratitude to you and the council. We see, appreciate and admire the efforts you as well as BC housing are making. Your incredible efforts to find us a long term/permanent shelter, and ensure that 60 souls in desperate need are not without a warm bed, food and safety is seen. You have also shown a great deal of  care for all of the 56 incredible individuals that work for and love these marginalized people.

Please continue in your exceptional endeavours and know that we as an organization are here cheering you on, praying and working tirelessly towards mutual success.

Yours Sincerely,

The entire team at Kelowna Gospel Mission

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New Kelowna homes will need EV charging outlet

Kelowna Daily Courier, RON SEYMOUR

Feb 8, 2022

 New homes built in Kelowna will be required to have an energized charging outlet for electric vehicles.

 City councillors on Monday endorsed the idea, presented by staff as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Council heard that requiring new homes - both single-family and parking stalls in multi-family developments - to have energized EV outlets would likely add up to $1,500 to the cost of a new house.

"This will increase the cost of development," Coun Luke Stack said. "That's just one of the realities. "I'm always struggling with something like this," he said. "We want to do something right one way, which is to reduce our greenhouse gases, but it has a negative impact on the cost of housing, which is another thing we're concerned about. "So we're always trying to wriggle down that middle," Stack said.

Going forward, he suggested, the city should seek to allay concerns about the additional cost to housing construction by pointing out what he said were the considerable cost savings that can come with owning an electric vehicle compared to a gas-powered one, "particularly now with the cost of gas going up." Every parking space for a new home would have to be built with a 220 volt to 240 volt outlet to facilitate charging for electric vehicles, council heard. The city predicts that 25,000 new homes will be built in Kelowna between now and 2040.

About 12% of vehicles sold in B.C. last year were zero emission vehicles. More detail on the proposal to require EV-ready outlets in new homes will be brought back to council before the necessary changes are made to city building regulations.

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Land donation paved way for 322 homes for low-income Kelowna residents

    • RON SEYMOUR
    •  Jan 28, 2022 Updated 17 hrs ago

Gordon Ziglar and his wife Helen gifted land worth that much to the Society of Hope housing society more than 25 years ago.

His mom had spent her declining years in a less-than-satisfactory retirement home, and he wanted the society to build a retirement residence with more amenities to keep seniors active and engaged with one another.

 The society used the donation to begin work on a series of housing projects near the south-west corner of Springfield Road and Benvoulin Road.

More than 200 homes already exist in three buildings; the fourth and final one, the groundbreaking for which was held Friday, will be nine storeys with homes for low-income seniors, small families, singles, and people with disabilities.

The provincial government has provided $13 million for the project as part of its housing strategy, the city waived $300,000 in development fees, and CMHC assisted with pre-construction costs.

But Ziglar’s land donation was the catalyst for the entire four-building Apple Valley housing development, says Luke Stack, the Society of Hope’s executive director.

“It was an incredibly generous donation and Gordon took a bit of a chance with our society, because at that point we hadn’t been established for very long,” Stack said in an interview.

“But our size was something of the appeal for him. He thought if he gave the land to a bigger non-profit, he might sort of get squeezed out in the decision-making process in terms of what amenities would eventually be built for people living in the buildings,” Stack said.

 The society was happy to accommodate Ziglar’s requests, such as one that stipulated a bowling alley should be included. Ziglar, who died a few years ago, had pressed for other features in an occasionally forceful way, Stack recalled.
 
“He wasn’t always the easiest guy to deal with, to be honest,” Stack said. “One time, he sent a crew in to start ripping out the furnishings in the bowling alley because he said they weren’t good enough.

“I told him, ‘Gordon, you can’t just come in here and start taking apart the furniture’,” Stack said. “But we worked it out.”

The nine-storey mass timber building now under construction will include a large common area, lounges, a pool room, and fitness areas for activities such as yoga and tai chi.
 
It’s expected to open next year, and will bring the society’s total number of residential units for low-income people in the Central Okanagan to 822.

“Gordon inspired us to go beyond just housing,” Stack said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”

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At a housing crossroads

Castanet  - Wayne Moore

Jan 11, 2022

It's no secret- housing unaffordability is a real issue in Kelowna. And the ability to attain housing, be it through purchase or rent, is becoming less and less attainable as the days, months and year roll by. As city council reviewed this year's community trends report, focusing on housing affordability, many pointed to last week's property assessments which jumped a whopping 35 per cent as another sign housing is out of the reach of many in Kelowna.

Coun. Gail Given suggested her adult children not only can't afford to buy a home in Kelowna, they can't afford to rent either.

In presenting the report to council Monday, planner Daniel Sturgeon says prices of all different types of housing in the city are rising faster than income levels which is creating the gap in affordability. He says the gap is only widening costs of purchasing, and renting has increased by as much as 30 per cent in some cases and the increased jump in inflation and the cost of living. "Affordability is a worsening condition, and has real impacts on the ability of people to move about the rental system, to move to Kelowna, and other serious impacts on health and well being of the community," said Sturgeon. "The worse it gets," he says, "the harder it is to address. "And, it impacts renters more significantly because renter households make less than owner households statistically."

 The yearly trends report does not specifically outline solutions, but sets the stage for future actions by identifying local implications of broader national trends. "Housing affordability challenges are severe," planning manager Danielle Noble-Brandt said during a preamble, "affecting not only our most vulnerable, but also middle income earners and families. "Decades in the making, it will not disappear overnight. Without bold changes today, these challenges are certain to persist well into the future." Change, added Sturgeon, will likely be unconventional, such as a different use of zoning and encouraging different types of ownership. "We need to rethink roles and rethink the housing system," he said. "Building a supply that is at an affordable price, what we're calling the right supply at the right price, and the right location is key. "This is a big challenge."

Coun. Luke Stack praised the city's planning department and those who work on housing on a daily basis. Stack suggested the city has taken advantage of pretty much every opportunity made available to it through either senior levels of government, legislation or the private sector. Without those, he shudders to think where the city would be. "When I think of all stuff we've built in the last several years, hundreds of units, I just don't know if we could have built more," said Stack. "I think we're hitting all the right buttons, and we need to keep pushing all of them because they're all needed. "But, the reality is the market forces are so big that we can't out-policy the market."  He says when people are willing to pay 30 per cent more for housing than they were a year ago, it's a market force he says the city can't respond to.

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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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