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!
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.
The entire team at Kelowna Gospel Mission
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.
- RON SEYMOUR Jan 28, 2022 Updated 17 hrs ago
One of the Apple Valley housing projects built by the Kelowna-based Society of Hope housing society, opened in 2014, included a four lane bowling alley. It was suggested by Gordon Ziglar, who had provided the land for the housing projects free of charge.
- Daily Courier file photo
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.
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.
“I told him, ‘Gordon, you can’t just come in here and start taking apart the furniture’,” Stack said. “But we worked it out.”
“Gordon inspired us to go beyond just housing,” Stack said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do.”
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Kelowna Daily Courier
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.
The 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."
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.
Kelowna Daily Courier
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.
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.
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.
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."
Housing tops city needs
Castanet, Wayne Moore Sep 23, 2020
The City of Kelowna continues to make social issues a top priority. Specifically, finding suitable housing for people with complex needs. That topic was front and centre during virtual meetings between Mayor Colin Basran and several provincial ministers last week. The face-to-face meetings are traditionally held during the annual Union of BC Municipalities convention which began Tuesday, but were scheduled the week prior this year. Basran says he discussed that issue in a joint meeting with both the Minister of Housing and the minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "There were two things, one to continue funding for supportive housing projects, but the bigger topic was how we are going house people with complex needs, who are not well enough to move into supportive housing projects," said Basran. "On the social issues front, that is our top priority." Basran says these are people with mental health and addiction issues, brain injuries or fetal alcohol syndrome who have been forced onto city streets. "Often times there's little to no chance of rehabilitation, but they still deserve a place to live, and supports. "Those are the people who get the most attention on our streets, and who residents see as not being helped, and wonder why nothing is being done. It's because their needs are so complex they can't just go into a supportive housing project." He said he had hoped to have Health Minister Adrian Dix on the call because they mayor believes those individuals will require supports from the health ministry as well.
"That was also a topic of conversation with the premier, because we need the health ministry onboard when it comes to helping those with complex needs." Basran says the topic of winter and cold weather shelters was not discussed, because those talks are already underway at the staff level. He says they are discussing site identification and service providers and, while there is no news to report, Basran says they are further along in the process than they were at this time last year.
New team focuses on troublesome properties
A new collaboration between police and government agencies is cracking down on properties where unsafe living conditions or suspected criminal activity have attracted neighbours’ attention.
The Property Standards Compliance Team (PSCT) is a new initiative started in June that brings together RCMP, City of Kelowna staff, Kelowna Fire Department and other agencies as needed to attend potentially unsafe or illegal properties.
The goal of the team is to act on repeated complaints from neighbours about properties. It combines enforcement of criminal activities with RCMP when necessary, in partnership with City Bylaw and building inspection staff.
“We receive calls from concerned neighbours throughout the year, as do the RCMP, about properties that are causing repeated disturbances to the neighbourhood,” said David Gazley, Bylaw Services Manager. ”This approach puts the onus on the property owner to address the concerns, rather than focusing on the tenants who might be the source of complaints. The fines and orders from the team motivate the property owner to take action.”
In a recent case, Bylaw Services issued tickets totaling more than $2,500 to a property owner. More specifically, the Bylaw officer attended with the RCMP and City Building Inspectors and issued the following six tickets to the property owner:
- more than five occupants not related
- illegally occupied bedroom in the furnace room
- illegal occupied utility trailer
- illegally occupied shed
- illegal room in the carriage home attic
- Building without a permit in the attic
RCMP attend to investigate possible criminal activity, while other government agencies might also attend to assess public health and safety issues.
“We have always collaborated with RCMP and others on property complaints, but this team takes a more coordinated and proactive approach to establish priorities and to bring the right people into the residence to assess illegal and unsafe conditions,” said Gazley.
Kelowna city council voted down a recommendation to have online portal accommodation revenue split between affordable housing and tourism marketing next year.
The recommendation was made as Tourism Kelowna struggles with funding to market the city to tourists from across the province.
Since allowing OAP's such as AirBNB in late 2018, the city has collected a three per cent fee from each short-term rental similar to the hotel tax collected on each room rental.
While the hotel tax revenue goes directly to Tourism Kelowna for marketing, the province has given municipalities the ability to use OAP monies for either tourism marketing or affordable housing.
City council has chosen to use that money for affordable housing.
Because room tax revenue has fallen off sharply due to COVID-19, with no guarantee of the full return in 2021, it was suggested the OAP be shared 50-50 between affordable housing and tourist marketing.
Council voted it down 5-3 with only Mayor Colin Basran and councillors Brad Sieben and Gail Given supporting it.
Basran said the main crux of the matter in allowing short-term rentals nearly two years ago was to regulate an industry that was causing havoc in the city.
He said getting OAP revenue on top of that was a bonus.
"But, I'm comfortable in the fact we have many ways of funding property acquisition if we need to, particularly in the short term," he said.
"If BC Housing comes knocking tomorrow, and says we have an opportunity, I have every confidence we would be able to find a way to purchase that property to move a project forward. This is not going to inhibit, for one year, our ability to move forward with affordable housing projects."
Basran says it comes down to the health aspect by opening the city up to tourists from around the province.
He added the city continues to follow the advice of Dr. Bonnie Henry who says people should feel free to move about around the province, and Basran says Tourism Kelowna should continue to market the city that way.
Coun. Luke Stack agreed comments about following the lead of the provincial health officer, but couldn't support the motion on principle.
"I actually believe once we give up this fund going into the affordable housing pool, year-after-year there will be an excellent year why not to put it in the pool because there will be other needs," said Stack.
"Using tourism advertising, I think changes the direction. In my opinion, once the direction is changed, we will never get it back. That's why I think we should stay the course as long as we can, because I think this will help build a foundation we need for the longer term."
Coun. Ryan Donn was on an island all by himself as council Tuesday approved a gas bar and restaurant drive-thru at Sexsmith and Highway 97 Tuesday night.
The property, on lands zoned for industrial use, required a council-approved rezoning because drive-thrus are not a permitted use in those zones.
Donn was the lone councillor to vote against the rezoning, siding with a recommendation put forward by planning staff, who cited council's goal of reducing vehicle emissions as a basis for that recommendation.
"I think based on our said goal of trying to reduce car usage...is to actually make using the car not the number one easiest choice possible. And that is what a drive-thru is," said Donn.
"I know there's a business case to be made that there are already two drive-thrus on different corners, and it's a major intersection. But, at some point we are going to have to say no if we genuinely want to move the dial lower to reduce people using cars.
"What is that point?"
The rest of council was not at that point with this particular application.
"Drive-thrus have their place, and this is a good place for it," cited Coun. Charlie Hodge.
Coun. Luke Stack pointed to the location as one of the gateways to the city, saying the companies overall landscape plan would actually enhance the area.
But, on emissions, he says the focus shouldn't be on banning or reducing drive-thrus.
"I do believe in greenhouse gas emission reduction, and on a personal level and a civic level working toward that goal," he said.
"But, I do believe the real solution is to have people change their automobiles to less emissions, and not to outlaw drive-thrus in my opinion. I go through one every day literally, but I drive an electric vehicle, so I don't have any emissions."
Mayor Colin Basran, an outspoken proponent of emission reduction, reluctantly endorsed the application.
"Do I think we are going to save the planet with this particular application? No. Is is another cut? potentially," said Basran.
"But, I think where we in Kelowna have the greatest opportunity to change behaviour is in our town centres, where people can live and work and shop and recreate in a way that's feasible for them to get around by alternate means.
"Unfortunately, because of this location, it's in an area that's outside those town centres where people are already in their vehicle."