A vigorous debate to convert green space into industrial property took centre stage around the city council table Monday afternoon. And, while the debate will continue for at least one more meeting - the long-term fate of Kelowna Springs Golf Course may have already been sealed. At issue for council, at the request of Coun. Luke Stack, was a land use change for the golf course to industrial in the recently adopted 2040 Official Community Plan.
The discussion around the table highlighted two critical needs in the city, more industrial land and the need to protect, and create more green space. And, while council seemed to be unanimous in the need for both, councillors were split almost equally into which should take precedence. Stack led the charge to have staff return with a "viable bylaw" to amend the OCP for the golf course property from industrial to recreational. His motion to that effect passed by a 4-3 vote with councillors DeHart, Singh and Hodge joining Stack while Mayor Basran and councillors Wooldridge and Donn opposed.
Stack, in his lengthy dissertation talked about the cumulative affect the previous or future loss of four other golf courses have had. Central Park where Walmart now sits and Fairview in the Mission which now includes housing and a school have already been lost. Shadow Ridge at the southern end of the airport is now city owned and will eventually be part of an airport expansion while Michaelbrook Ranch has been designated future park in the new OCP.
"One-by-one, they are being converted to other uses," said Stack. "Cumulatively, the loss is significant, and is now to the point that I believe it is negatively affecting the quality of life of our citizens."
He pointed to the most recent citizen survey in which most residents said they had a good quality of life, but more than half say it is getting worse, not better.
Those who sided with staff agreed industrial lands are in short supply and more is needed for a growing city economy. It was also argued that placing employment closer to the people will help reduce the amount of time people spend commuting, thus achieving the city's climate action objectives. "I'm concerned we are going to push industrial into areas that we won't necessarily need when we know this area is connected to all of the servicing that is needed," said Coun. Wooldridge. "It's sad to see green space designated this way, but it can still be used that way (golf course) until a future owner comes forward with rezoning."
Staff also reminded council it was the owners of Kelowna Springs who approached the city about a possible change in land use designation in the new OCP. The owners suggested the golf course may cease operations during the life of the 2040 OCP.
If a bylaw reverting the property to recreational use is adopted by council down the road, it would be forwarded to a public hearing for further discussion.