Developer makes high end plans for Kelowna campground that's home to low income earners
Matthew Richard loves where he lives.
The rent is cheap, it’s quiet and close to the beach.
But, after three years of renting his home in the Hiawatha RV Park, he’s worried about having to move now that the property owner, Westcorp, has submitted yet another application to develop the 18-acre site that's across the road from Okanagan Lake and Kelowna’s Rotary Park.
“It’s awesome here,” Richard told iNFOnews.ca.
“There’s no crime here. There’s deer running through the back in the summer. You don’t hear anything but the birds singing.”
When he and Trevor Garowey rented the 1970s-era manufactured home, he knew the site was destined for redevelopment and has always had the nagging worry that, someday, he would have to move.
“Where will we go?” asked another resident who didn’t want to give his name.
“There’s nothing in Kelowna for people who are on a fixed income or work at a fast food place.”
He’s on a disability pension and, even with the low rents at Hiawatha, he has to have a roommate to get by.
Westcorp is the same company that’s going to a public hearing next Tuesday requesting a permit to build a 174-room, 33-storey hotel in downtown Kelowna that’s been on the books for many years.
It bought Hiawatha, with its 89 campsites and 94 RV pads, in 2007.
In 2013, despite strong opposition from residents and neighbours, city council agreed to a development plan for the site. By 2015, Westcorp owned all the mobile homes on the site.
They destroyed 36 of them in 2016 because of extensive mold damage but the rest are rented out. Tenants include seniors on fixed incomes, young families with children and a range of people in between.
There are only three of the original tenants still living in the park, according to the report going to city council.
And, despite Richard’s claim that it's been crime-free, there was a brutal murder in the park in 2014.
Even though the development was approved in 2013, that permission has long since expired, which is why the new application had to be filed. If granted, work has to start within two years.
The application Westcorp filed Jan. 30, shows eight towers ranging from eight to 15 stories plus a cluster of 3.5 storey townhouses with a total of 1,071 units, a day care, 19,000 square feet of retail space and 4,000 square feet of office space.
“For more than five decades, families have enjoyed visiting this site to camp next to Wilson Creek, and to play in the sand and water at Rotary Beach,” the report states. “The legacy of this site is the love of sun, water, relaxation, nature and connection.”
The plans include creating a linear park along Wilson Creek that will connect through from Lakeshore Road to Springbrook Road.
“It is these components that have been the inspiration for the built form, one that is imbued with cues of authentic, close-to-nature Okanagan living,” the report continues.
But it will not be a campground nor a home for low-income renters.
“The over-look pool deck will be reminiscent of living at a grand resort, with amenities such as the ‘outdoor kitchens and dining rooms’ that will provide a lifestyle consistent with only the most gracious of homes,” the report states.
“This will truly be living life ‘elevated’.”
That’s what bothers the residents.
There are fewer affordable housing options for people living on low incomes in Kelowna.
Richard works as a janitor and his roommate is on a disability pension.
While rent is only about $1,000 per month, with utilities that can cost them $1,600 to $1,800 a month.
With the average one-bedroom apartment costing $1,300 a month, neither could afford that on their own.
Besides, Richard noted, he loves to be outdoors.
Given the number of applications that have flooded into City Hall in recent weeks, it’s unlikely that this one will get to city council before summer. There’s no indication of how the project will be phased so tenants don’t know how much time they will have to find another place to live.
“They don’t tell us anything,” said the unnamed resident.
Calls to Westcorp were not returned by publication time.
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