The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has cleared the way for the City of Kelowna to move forward with a new regional transit yard.
40 acres of farmland just south of UBC Okanagan have been approved for removal from the agricultural land reserve. The city purchased the property in 2017 with the intention of using it for transit. The city submitted its application to the ALC in September 2021, and it was approved last month.
“We appreciate the ALC decision in this case, which represents a significant milestone for the project, and success of the city’s advocacy efforts,” said Mayor Colin Basran. “The city respects the ALC’s role in preserving agriculture land that is critical to the economy and culture of Kelowna and we remain committed to agricultural protection and advancement opportunities beyond those stated in this application.”
The new yard is much needed as the current BC Transit facility on Hardy Road does not have room to expand to meet needs as the city grows. Additional benefits associated with the acquisition include protecting future road networks, such as the Hollywood Road extension, and environmental features, such as Carney Pond. BC Transit and the City have been actively pursuing sites since 2013, with many options explored including splitting use onto multiple sites or locations in adjacent municipalities.
The ALC decision notes the extension of Hollywood Road North as part of the city’s plans for the land. The decision also states that a future exclusion application would need to be submitted prior to construction of the road and industrial development of the properties.
“Given its proximity to a FortisBC substation, this site meets a key goal with the ability to electrify the transit fleet,” said Basran. “Public transit provides a basic mobility service for youth, students, commuters, seniors, and to everyone without access to a car, along with helping to reduce road congestion and travel times, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and energy and oil consumption, all of which benefit everyone in our community.”
As part of its application, the city included $600,000 to be set aside for agricultural initiatives, including an agricultural reclamation fund, an ag-specific planning resource, and enhanced buffering around the proposed transit facility.
In its decision, the ALC says accepting an offer to offset the exclusion of ALR land with financial contributions could set an unintended precedent and isn’t necessary given its endorsement. However, the ALC did encourage the city to pursue the proposed enhancements.