Updated: June 13 9 p.m.
The controversial zoning bylaw regarding the new tourism centre at the downtown Kelowna Queensway location was approved by the City of Kelowna council Tuesday night.
Almost all of the seats were filled during the meeting with a divide of green YES supporters taking up a little more than half of the audience.
John Meiklejohn of Meiklejohn Architects Inc. addressed city council and presented the tourism center’s newly proposed design.
The design shows the tourism centre as a one-story building which sits on 293 metres quarried (3150 square feet) with Tourism Kelowna’s corporate office spaces located off-site with a total building height of 7.3 m (24 ft).
The building will also include five gender-neutral bathrooms.
The variance proposal was also approved with the support of council 7 to 1.
Stuart Lang, owner of Smile Cycle Tours, showed his support of the variance at the meeting.
“The progress that has been to Stuart and Kerry Park has been tremendous. More than every guests are graviting to the waterfront,” he said.
About half of the public speakers shared their support for the variance however, some Kelowna residents voiced concerns over environmental impacts, the use of park space to build the centre, flooding issues and deign concerns.
Coun. Brad Sieban noted the support from the public is split.
“I think it’s important to actually going to where the visitors are is key, you’re only as good as your last experience,” he said.
Coun. Tracy Gray said she didn’t want to see the public space sit as a parking lot for another 30 years.
The controversial issue of rezoning land on the downtown Kelowna waterfront for a new tourism information centre returns to city council chambers tonight.
A vote on the final reading of the rezoning bylaw will take place during the council’s meeting, followed—if passed—by discussion of a development permit and a variance for the proposed tourism centre.
While the public will be invited to comment on the variance—to alter the setback of the building from the property line to 3.6 metres from the required six metres, there will be no public discussion on the rezoning as a public hearing has already been held and under B.C. municipal rules it’s illegal for a council to receive additional information after a public hearing has been closed.
In January, council voted to give the rezoning of land at the foot of Queensway second and third reading after a lengthy public hearing that was evenly split between opponents and proponents who rose to speak.
In the 7-1 vote that followed the five-hour public hearing, only Coun. Charlie Hodge voted against it.
During the pubic hearing, opponents blasted council for considering allowing what they referred to as waterfront parkland to be used to house the proposed new tourism centre.
The land in question is the former jetty that was used for the ferry that took people across the lake prior to the building of the Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge in 1958. It has been used as a parking lot since then.
Proponents of the tourism centre say it is an ideal spot because it will be located where the people are—in the downtown area. They say the existing location on Harvey Avenue is not the right place to have a tourism centre anymore because catering to drive-by-traffic is not how tourists in the city want to get their information.
Opponents say giving up valuable waterfront land, and allowing a building on it, is a mistake.
The proposed 3,000-square foot building would be paid for and operated by Tourism Kelowna, not the city.
Tourism in Kelowna has been estimated to be a $1 billion industry here and proponents of the new centre say it is needed.
Many of the people who spoke against the rezoning in January agreed, but said the location is not the right one.
The item will be one of the last presented to council tonight during the meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. in council chambers at city hall.