Long-awaited student housing at the Salmon Arm campus of Okanagan College is rolling along the road to reality.
In March 2021, the province announced housing projects for the Salmon Arm, Vernon and Kelowna campuses.
In December 2021 the Salmon Arm property was rezoned in advance to make way for the possible addition of a dormitory.
Now the project has submitted a development variance permit application to the city, requesting that the height of the main building be 12.5 metres, 2.5 metres higher than what’s permitted in the institutional zone.
Also requested is an increase to the permitted maximum height exemption from two to three metres and the maximum area from 10 to 31 metres to accommodate a mechanical penthouse and elevator shaft.
The four-storey, 49-unit building with 60 beds will be situated on the northeast corner of the college parcel. Each floor is designed to have a shared kitchen facility, and some units will be equipped with separate kitchens. Site access to the building will be from the north property line, not via the 5th Avenue NE access.
The proponent, Faction Projects Inc. represented by Paul Reyes, noted at the city’s Feb. 21 development and planning services committee that the campus property has a 9.5 metre grade differential from the southeast to the northeast. The site chosen, in the northeast corner, has about a 1.5-metre grade change from the east to the west.
“We’ve chosen our elevation to optimize the relationship with the campus and create a welcoming entry place for the development,” said Reyes.
City planner Melinda Smyrl said city staff are supportive of the variance request as the height in the zoning bylaw is quite restrictive and the requests for these particular height variances are minor in nature given the scale of development in the vicinity.
Coun Kevin Flynn said he’s looking forward to the project being built and he assumes city properties are the main neighbours. Some residential properties are located to the south. He said with a smile that the building might mean lots more people could be watching lawn bowling, and the building might also provide more shade in the summer for it.
Mayor Alan Harrison said student housing has been a dream for the city for a long time and will be “a hugely important addition both for the college and city.”
Council will vote on the variance request at its next meeting on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.
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