Kelowna city council pumped the brakes Monday on a plan that would have emphasized urban development and potentially stopped 1,500 suburban homes from being built.
Council — with the exception of Coun. Charlie Hodge— their its from a 20-year growth strategy they voted in favour of last December.
The plan would have ensured that 81 per cent of future Kelowna homes are built in urban areas and just 19 per cent would be built in suburban areas.
Danielle Noble-Brandt, the city’s policy and planning department manager, explained that the plan would have guided Kelowna’s evolution into “sustainable, healthy and compact city” through encouraging increased transit use, in additon to greater proximity between homes and shops and services.
She also noted that whatever growth scenario the city started with or ended with, there will be trade-offs and hard decisions ahead.
While the plan reflected the interests represented in a public consultation process, the development community wasn’t willing to take the trade-offs sitting down and they brought their case to councillors over the last month.
In turn, city staff were asked to revisit the plan and crunch some numbers.
In a presentation to council, staff explained Wilden could lose 700 to 900 future homes, Black Mountain could lose 250 to 350 future homes, and Kirschner Mountain could lose 350 to 450 new homes.
This could put at risk the commercial element of residential developments that require a certain level of population density to fall into place. Some councillors pointed out that it could also be viewed as reneging on a deal.
Mayor Colin Basran said he feels strongly about the “devastating challenges of climate change” and the tax burden facing his children and the future generations of children who will inherit this city.
He said he believes the most powerful way that a city can mitigate these challenges is through land use planning.
“There’s no question that cities need to be built differently than they have in the past. Through the Imagine Kelowna process we’ve defined what kind of community we want to become. This next Official Community Plan will plot course toward imagine Kelowna vision,” Basran said.
“Growth scenarios presented to the city were supposed to be thought provoking and stimulate dialogue.”
Unfortunately, he said, what should have been an exciting and engaging exercise to shape Kelowna’s future has now become very adversarial.
“When you strip away the rhetoric and arguments most of us what the very same things,” he said. “I personally will take some of the responsibility for tension that has been created in our community.”
Basran said that council’s decision to support the plan that was more restrictive to suburban developers was done without appropriate research and analysis from staff.
“If I could do it again, I would have asked staff to bring back a report to council explaining the impacts of growth scenario 3 before adopting it,” said Basran.
He went on to say that the majority of future growth can and should occurring in urban neighbourhoods.
“However, we need to asks make sure our suburban neighbourhoods grow as responsibly as possible, utilizing infrastructure that has already been built out,” he said.
Council then voted for an alternate growth scenario that put less emphasis on urbanization. It would emphasize overall housing split of 52 per cent multi-family and 48 per cent single- and two-family homes.
About two thirds of new housing would be built in the city’s core area, which includes the City Centre, South Pandosy, Capri-Landmark, Midtown, and Rutland Urban Centres.
The remaining third would be built in suburban neighbourhoods already planned for in the existing 2030 Official Community Plan, such as Wilden, Black Mountain, Kirschner Mountain and The Ponds.
“A significant difference between the two scenarios is where new housing would and would not be built, which in turn would determine the location and cost of infrastructure and transportation investments,” said project manager Robert Miles.
“While both scenarios represented ambitious, progressive shifts in how the city will grow, the growth scenario that council endorsed would allow more neighbourhoods to be completed as envisioned in the current 2030 Official Community Plan.”
The next phase of public and stakeholder engagement is anticipated this spring and will gather feedback on some of the key components of the draft 2040 Official Community Plan.
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