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Non-profit opposed to new suburb proposal in Kelowna’s north-end

An aerial view of McKinley Beach and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
An aerial view of McKinley Beach and the surrounding neighbourhoods.
Image Credit: Placemark Design

A developer has proposed 2,000 new residential units in McKinley Beach, but a local non-profit said it isn’t worth the burden on taxpayers.

Kelowna city council is deciding on Monday, July 8, whether or not to approve Placemark Design’s proposal for 652 acres of McKinley Beach in the city’s north-end dubbed McKinley Gateway. The planned development would be a “mixed-use urban village” with homes, boutique shops, parks, and potentially an elementary school.

Tracey Davis works with the volunteer groups Kelowna Climate Coalition and Okanagan Climate Hub. Davis said she normally focuses on the environmental impact of projects like this one, but the financial case for taxpayers is where she sees a problem.

“We're paying for infrastructure for boutique shops. Nobody is going to travel from Pandosy to McKinley,” she said. “The taxpayer is subsidizing a boutique shopping area in the most expensive place to build infrastructure.”

Kelowna city staff had the same sentiment in its report on whether this project aligns with the city's broader Official Community Plan. Staff said building the infrastructure needed for this development would take funds away from investments in urban centres and the downtown core.

READ MORE: Kelowna has learned the 'iceberg' lesson of sprawling development

Staff said the development fails to align with what the city is trying to do in terms of focusing on urban areas, promoting public transit, and protecting agricultural land. One of the city’s community plan pillars is to stop planning new suburban neighbourhoods.

The City of Kelowna has turned away from sprawling suburban development in large part because of the cost to build and maintain infrastructure in the long term.

The project is still in its early stages so the city staff report doesn’t have exact dollar amounts for infrastructure costs, but it said it would be expensive.

“Preliminary analysis indicates few, if any, insurmountable utility infrastructure challenges, but anticipates that the area will continue to be one of the most expensive areas for the applicant and the city to service,” staff said in their report.

Placemark’s Andrew Gaucher said there's a need for housing in Kelowna’s north-end in a press release issued May 13.

“Kelowna is seeing a majority of its economic and job growth happening in the north, yet residential development has occurred predominantly within our urban centres," Gaucher said in the release.

READ MORE: Plan in the works for 652-acre neighbourhood in Kelowna's north-end

Davis said the city should focus on housing developments that are already in progress in urban centres rather than direct money towards another suburb.

“The whole goal is to have more development in the urban core because it's less costly for taxpayers,” she said.

The other issue highlighted by Davis and city staff is the challenge for accessible public transit, and the fact that it would be another neighbourhood reliant on personal vehicles.

“Transportation is expected to be challenging for this area, much like it is for the Upper Mission which represents a similar scale to the proposed development,” staff said in its report.

Davis said focusing on housing in urban centres is a better solution to the real estate crisis than suburban proposals like this one.

“Instead of wasting staff time on that, why not spend time on developments that are actually already on the go?” Davis said.

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