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."