A Vancouver-based company hoping to erect three large towers on Kelowna’s Leon Avenue will not be allowed to fill one of those buildings with short-term rental units, city council has decided.
A decisive 7-1 vote by council quashed the hopes of developer Anthony Beyrouti, owner of ticket reseller VenueKings.com, who was seeking a site-specific bylaw amendment to allow 198 short-term rental units at a proposed building at 1660 Water Street, at the intersection with Leon Avenue. Coun. Ryan Donn was the lone vote in favour and Coun. Maxine Dehart recused herself from the vote due to her employment in the local hotel industry.
When plans were revealed in January, the building in question was initially planned to be a hotel, but Beyrouti shifted his plans towards rentals, citing issues with financing and parking prompted by hotel-based regulations.
But still, Beyrouti’s plans for a front desk concierge and hotel-style operations prompted the question: Why not just build a hotel?
“This is a unique atmosphere and a unique location — and a unique city, to be honest with you,” said Beyrouti.
“People would like an opportunity to not feel like they’re in a hotel but to actually feel like they’re in somebody’s apartment or in their own home — that kind of atmosphere. We believe this is a phenomenal opportunity to help enhance the area.”
City staff added the building would be taxed at a lower rate if approved with the short-term rentals than if it were a hotel.
“When it’s a single owner running with a front desk, it really is a hotel … and it should pay taxes like our hotels,” said Coun. Brad Sieben.
“But I think there’s merit to what you’re doing and to be perfectly honest, if you were to build all residential market housing here, while it may not be your original vision, it would be transformative to the area and from a city perspective it would be warmly welcomed.”
Without the allowance of short-term rentals, Beyrouti said he’d have to take another look at his plans.
Currently, Beyrouti’s plans call for 732 suites across the three towers, planned to be 25, 29 and 42 storeys tall — which would require significant variances on height. The tallest tower could become Kelowna’s tallest structure.
Development and variance permits are still planned to come before council, with significant changes due to council’s decision, at a later date.
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