Application for Kelowna’s tallest highrise 'feels like a PR stunt': Councillor | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Application for Kelowna’s tallest highrise 'feels like a PR stunt': Councillor

Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna
July 26, 2021 - 4:30 PM

Kelowna city council unanimously rejected a proposal today for what could have been the city’s tallest building.

The project on Bertram Street, just north of Bernard Avenue downtown, was first proposed to be 46 storeys but was reduced to 35.

City staff said it was the wrong height for that location, which had been designated as a transitional site at only 12 storeys. Councillors agreed.

“I’m looking forward to voting against this today because I feel it’s a waste of time,” Coun. Ryan Donn said. “If you drop off a 46-storey application in an area that has 12 storeys noted, that’s just a slap in the face.”

In fact, Donn said, the applicant had discussions with staff and was told they could support up to 20 storeys if there was a community benefit, like affordable housing units.

“Then you dropped off a 46-storey application the day after,” he said. “It just feels like a PR stunt. It feels like a complete waste of time.”

READ MORE: City council may reject plan for tallest highrise in Kelowna

The developer told council 44 per cent of the 276 proposed housing units would be sold or rented below market value.

Twenty-five per cent (69) were to be shared or “co-living” units, which piqued the interest of some councillors but not enough to overcome the huge gap in heights proposed.

“If tackling affordable housing is so important to you, why would you choose to buy lots in the most expensive part of our community?” Mayor Colin Basran asked the developer. “And now you’re coming to say, we paid so much for these, now we have to have this massive project. That’s the only way it works. Well, of course, because you just bought land in the most expensive part of our community.”

The developer argued that it added housing variety downtown and was a private sector developer providing affordable housing.

That didn’t wash with council.

Coun. Luke Stack pointed out that, if council agreed to such a massive variance, it could destabilize land prices in the neighbourhood.

“To me the crux of the matter here is the density,” he said. “I’ve heard from the proponent and the only way to achieve their objectives is to get the density that’s proposed. When you take a particular property that isn’t proposed to have that type of density and add to it, it adds a tremendous amount of value to the property.”

He argued that, if council agreed to “unexpected density bonuses,” then other developers might try to offer some public benefit and ask for similar building heights. That could even mean four-storey apartments in the neighbourhood might be torn down to make room for highrises.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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