Council Endorses New Civic Precinct Plan

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Future vision for Kelowna's Civic Block area endorsed by council

Kelowna Capital News

By Alistair Waters

March 15, 2016

Kelowna's new plan for the possible future development of what it calls its Civic Block—an area of downtown bordered by Queensway, Clement, Ellis and Okanagan Lake—says the land currently housing the soon-to-be replaced RCMP detachment should be redeveloped with mixed use housing in a building as tall as 13 storeys high.

The recommendation is just one of a series in the proposed future land-use vision endorsed by city council Monday.

In addition to redeveloping the RCMP detachment site—being replaced by a larger, new police services building on Clement Avenue in the city's North End—other projects envisioned in the short-term (five to 10 years) include:

• Extending the existing Art Walk that runs between Cawston Avenue and the Library Parkade all the way to Queensway.

• Creating a civic Plaza on the walkway at the end of Smith Avenue.

• Refreshing the Bennett Clock Memorial on Queensway.

• Enhancing pedestrian and cycle access throughout the area.

Longer term possibilities (10-25 years) include:

• A new performing arts centre to replace the existing Kelowna Community Theatre.

• Multi-storey mixed-use development on parts of the Prospera Place parking lot.

• Redevelopment of the Memorial Arena for community use, possibly as the new home for the Kelowna Heritage Museum.

• Redevelopment of the existing museum site at Ellis and Queensway.

• Mixed-use development on the site of the existing health unit on Ellis Street.

• Infill development on Cawston Avenue.

• A new civic building on the existing city hall parking lot.

The plan envisions up to 230 affordable housing units, 550 other housing units, an additional 75,000-square feet of commercial space and another 5.5 hectares of land for future civic use.

It would also give new mixed-use developments in the area a break on parking requirements. However, no new parkades would be built in the area, which already has the soon-to-be expanded library parkade and the new parkade beside Memorial Arena that is currently under construction.

For the most part, council members liked what they saw in the plan. Council voted to endorse it 5-2, with Couns. Brad Sieben and Charlie Hodge voting against. Couns. Tracy Gray and Gail Given were not at the meeting.

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Kelowna's Rental Challenge

 

City HomesRental housing construction is on the upswing in Kelowna.

(JOHN MCDONALD /InfoTel Multimedia)

December 02, 2015 - 10:30 AM

KELOWNA - The city has done a lot to encourge development of rental housing and there’s not too much more that can be done, except to let the incentives do their work and keep on pushing for more.

That’s the opinion of Luke Stack, a city councillor and also executive director of the Society of Hope, a non-profit dedicated to developing social housing in Kelowna.

“The position I take is that we should do everything we can to increase the rental housing supply, whether there is a good or bad market,” Stack says. “This is a popular place to live and there is going to be ongoing pressure."

Kelowna has been flirting with a near-crisis level of rental housing supply, a landlord’s market with a vacancy rate of one per cent last year. That has ticked up a bit to 1.5 per cent, according to the Canadian Mortage and Housing Corporation, but is still not in the two to four per cent range Stack considers optimal.

“Once you get in there, positive things start to happen, at least for renters,” Stack says. “Landlords start renovating their properties and they drop the rents to attract tenants.”

Tick up too high, though, and landlords will start losing money because of too many vacancies, driving some of them out of the market and reducing supply.

A balanced rental market, on the other hand, offers stability to landlords and has the added effect of addressing affordability, another area where Kelowna has problems, Stack adds.

The B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association’s rental housing index ranks Kelowna as being in crisis because of high rents that are forcing some tenants to spend as much as 50 per cent of their income on housing.

The city saw plans for more than 300 new purpose-built rental units begin development this year, the first time it has reached the goal council set in the 2012 housing strategy.

That stacks up to the 489 rental units constructed in the city between 2010 and 2014, just a third of the desired number despite a raft of incentives.

Developers of purpose built rental properties in Kelowna can apply for direct rental housing grants — the city gave out $286,000 worth of them for 2016 — as well 10-year property tax exemptions when the vacancy rate slips below three per cent.

In addition, developers of so-called micro-suites — suites less than 29 square metres — are eligible for developement cost charge exemptions.

Long range policy planner James Moore says the jump in rental housing construction is a sign that developers are finally returning to the multi-family housing market, after getting burned during the 2008 downturn.

“It takes more than just incentives. It takes a lot of time for confidence to build back up and I think we are seeing developers cautiously putting their feet back into the market,” Moore says.

While development didn’t stop during the intervening years, the focus was more on single-family residential and townhouses, Moore adds, in part because there is less risk in financing and building them as compared to large multi-family developments.

What’s also helping, Moore says, is that some bigger developers have jumped into the market, including Al Stober Construction, with a micro-suite development on Dickinson Avenue.

“We’re certainly hoping leaders of the industry will perceive the need and take the leap. Others will soon follow."

What remains to be seen is if the numbers hold up.

“It’s encouraging. It’s looking healthier than it has been in the recent past,” Moore says of early indications drawn from developer enquiries.

About the only thing the city hasn’t done is become a landlord itself. Both Stack and Moore say the city creating its own housing authority isn’t on the radar.

“That issue has been explored years ago by the housing committee. The consensus was not to pursue that as a role for the city,” Stack says. 

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Water is this Council's #1 Priority

Ron Seymour's editorial pretty much says it all....

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Kelowna Fire Department Fund Raiser

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The Kelowna Fire Department annual fundraising event raised $3,500 for burn victims. I was part of a "high-angle" rescue demonstrating the skill of the Fire Department in rescuing people from high angles. Councillor Tracy Gray was also rescued from a truck demonstrating the "Jaws of Life." It was a really interesting day and I was pleased to support the Fire Department and the Victims of burns.  

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Community Gardens Grow

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Community gardens get big green thumbs up in Kelowna

Infotel        By John McDonald                                               June 2, 2015

KELOWNA - Better support for community gardens, both public and private, can happen if there is a better understanding of what food security means for the community.

City staff hope to provide a better understanding by amending the food security policy in the official community plan and the zoning bylaw.

“This is turning a landscape buffer into functional, useable outdoor space — creating productivity,” Coun. Luke Stack says, praising the social function the 11 public community gardens in Kelowna provide.

Eight of these gardens are located on city-owned land and all are managed by the Central Okanagan Community Garden Society. The society says there is a waiting list of more than 200 people for garden plots.

There are also eight private gardens located in multi-family residential complexes and another three at local extended care facilities.

“Most of these people go to meet their neighbours, create friendships. The reality is it's a community that comes out of these gardens,” Stack says.

Urban planning manager Ryan Smith told council staff are recommending developers be allowed to swap 10 per cent of private amenity space (such as balconies or rooftop patios) in multi-residential projects for a shared garden space. As well, a one-metre strip of the current three-metre rear yard setback can be exchanged for garden space.

The current definition of food security looks to ensure all community residents have access to sufficient, safe, healthy and culturally acceptable foods produced in a manner that promotes health, protects the environment and adds economic and social value to communities. Council quickly passed first reading of all the related official community plan and zoning bylaw amendments.

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Rutland Maydays Parade

What a perfect day for a parade! Mayor and Council delivered roses to the ladies along the parade route. There were lots of people inattendance and lots of smiles. L-R Councillors Maxine Dehart (in golf cart) Luke Stack; Ryan Donn, Gail Given, Brad Sieban; Tracy Gray and Mayor Colin. Basran. 

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To kick off the event the "Political Possee" played a few tunes as well. Lots of fun by all.

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Okanagan Mission Secondary School Partnership

OKM School Theatre

Standing on the amazing rigging above the OKM theatre. The ceiling of this theatre is wire mesh. It allows students the ability to set lighting and sound for plays in a safe and secure mannor. Its like walking on a trampoline. What a great idea!

The City partnership with OKM School provided the opportunity to build a second gymnasium at the school using the "Neighborhoods of Learning" program. This beautiful new gymnasium is 3 meters higher than the existing gym allowing for vollyball. This Partnerhship allows the City to program indoor recreational activities at OKM to support the community needs in the Mission. A win for the school and the citizen's of Kelowna. The new classroom areas are also wonderful. They feature break-out study areas, open airy hallways and natural light throughout. Congratulations to SD#23 on the successful completion of this major addition to OKM. It is great to see the City and the School District working in partnership. 

 

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Pleasantvale Sod Turning

2014 Pleasantvale Sod Turning Dec 15

Dec 15, 2014 was a grand sunny winter day to celebrate the sod turning of Pleasantvale. This new development replaces 50 units of senior's housing and adds 20 new family town homes to the north-end of Kelowna. It is a beautiful location at the foot of Knox Mountain. There are many partners in this project. Dignitaries included Premier Clark representing the Province of BC and the staff of BC Housing; Mayor Basran representing the fine work of the staff of the City of Kelowna; MP Ron Cannan representing the Federal Government; Catherine Comden representing the Rotary and the Pleasantvale Homes Society and President Lorne Gerber representing the Society of Hope (Hope is the developer of the new site and future operator.) The project is now fully underway with a target completion date of February 2016. Thanks to all for the dedication to bring this project forward. It took 5 years of hard work, deal making and problem solving to reach this Sod Turning event.  

 

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City of Kelowna Says a Heart-Filled Goodbye at Last Council Meeting

Local News posted November 10, 2014 by  Cassandra Jeffery

Friendships were solidified, tears were shed, and memories were created at the final City of Kelowna Council Meeting for this council term.

Recounting moments of significant pride and rendering nostalgia from the last three years, the eight councillors and mayor Walter Gray took some time at the end of Monday's council meeting to comment on the success and woes of council and to provide some helpful advice for the council term to come.

“More than anything, I will take away the friendships I have with all of you. I've learned so much from all of you, and regardless of what happens on Saturday we are lifelong friends and will always be bonded as a result of this amazing experience. It's been an honour to serve with you and I will cherish this. If this is the only three years I get on council, I'm so proud of what we've accomplished,” said councillor Colin Basran.

Words of wisdom were shared by retiring council members and much praise was given to mayor Gray for his leadership and poise throughout his four terms as mayor and two terms as a councillor.

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Retiring councillor Robert Hobson shared his final words to council, reminding those who will serve next that it's important to remain true to their convictions and represent the entire City of Kelowna.

“Remember to take the long view, and pledge like the ancient councillors of Athens, to leave your city more beautifully than you found it. Always making decisions not with your head alone, but with your heart also,” added Hobson.

Walter Gray concluded the council meeting with his bitter-sweet “swan song,” congratulating the accomplishments council has made in this past term and offering council with his recommendations for the future council as he graciously bows out of office.

“An effective and deserving council is not just about bricks, water, and pavement, pathways, and bridges, but its also about promoting efficiency at city hall and knowing how to do business, giving value to every tax dollar spent,” added Gray.

Mayor Walter Gray encourages council to keep the social well-being of citizens at the heart of decision making. Gray holds the future of Kelowna with high regard and he is confident in the future council's capacity to propel the City of Kelowna into the future.

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Rails With Trails - Phase II Opens

Rails With Trails - Phase II Opens

Rails with Trails Phase II officially opened on June 7, 2014. Hon. Steve Thomson, Mayor Walter Gray, Senator Nancy Greene Raine, and Rhona Martin (UBCM) did the honors of cutting the ribbon. A good crowd was on hand to walk and ride the new section of trail. Phase II connects Spall Road to Dilworth Road. The budget was $4.5 million dollars. This cost was shared equally by the Federal Government, the Provincial Government (Gas tax,) and the City of Kelowna. Kelowna is clearly making headway in becoming more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. There is now 19.2 Kilometers of off-road bike trails in the City of Kelowna. Progress!

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