April 08, 2013 - 5:19 PM
By Julie Whittet
The city says the high-density development on Lakeshore Drive will work out in the long run.
Despite harsh criticisms and vocal opposition, the site of the Hiawatha RV Park is set to become the next big hotel destination on Lakeshore Drive. Construction of the $150 million dollar, 900-unit tourist-commercial development will be underway in a year's time.
The City of Kelowna gave the project the final go-ahead at today's council meeting. Six of the nine council members voted in favour of the project, after mulling over the strong opposition expressed at a public hearing last month.
Ultimately, councillors say the decision comes down to appropriate use of the 18-acre site.
“We're here to decide about land use, not disputes between tenants and landlords,” Councillor Gerry Zimmermann stated. Many of the Hiawatha RV Park's residents came forward at the public hearing to decry the unfair compensation developer Westcorp offered to those forced to abandon their homes.
But council appeared satisfied with the relocation plan for the park's remaining home owners, who will now be able to secure subsidized housing with the help of a third party group called Seniors Outreach Society. Councillor Luke Stack says, “I have a lot of confidence in that group that they will do a good job.”
Mayor Walter Gray also reminds mobile-home owners, “you have no tenure, you are renting land.”
The City looks forward to the project's residential townhomes, planned for the first phase of construction. The townhomes will open up rental options for a growing demographic of citizens who cannot afford to purchase a home.
“The part that I really like is the rentals, more and more people can't afford to buy,” Zimmermann says.
The ambitious number of units envisioned for the site has been an outstanding concern facing the project. Councillors expect the long 20-25 year build out period will make it easier for the existing area and infrastructure to absorb the density another 900 residents and commuters.
Utlimately, Westcorp's design fits with the city's plan to turn the Lakeshore Drive corridor into Kelowna's prime hotel district. When voicing her approval of the project, councillor Maxine DeHart described the Lakeshore Drive area as "sort of like the jewel in the middle of the city.”
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250)718 0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013