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Kelowna News

Can Okanagan Lake handle a massive new development? Depends who you ask

A public hearing for Blackmun Bay is scheduled for Oct. 23

WEST KELOWNA - The merits of a controversial West Kelowna development will be up for discussion later this month.

Blackmun Bay is proposed for an area just south of the Bennett Bridge and will be considered at an Oct. 23 public hearing. It has four nine-storey buildings, hundreds of homes and hotel suites as well as a marina and winery/restaurant.

Plans also come with a fair share of controversy.

A petition put together by the Casa Loma Community Association, signed by close to 500 area residents, asks that the development not be approved for a variety of reasons.

Top of the list of concerns is the sheer size of the project. The development is the largest ever proposed in West Kelowna and the impact, according to those opposed, will be heavy traffic and dangerous congestion for emergency evacuation with possible roads required through Lakeview Heights or Westbank First Nation.

They’re also concerned that years of construction will be needed for the development and it will bring noise and disruption to the community.

They also cite disregard for the Official Community Plan and destruction of the natural environment.

Opposition has come as no surprise to the developers.

“When you are in the development business, you know there isn’t a single development that a person hasn’t raised their hand and said, ‘I object,’ — whether it’s a fourplex in Calgary or this here,” Robert Moskovitz, Manager of Development & Operations for Landstar Development Corporation said.

“We believe that the development has a lot of value that it brings to West Kelowna, as a city in general, a spectacular landmark development and the economic ripple effects outweigh some of the controversy of the opposition.”

He said the opposition is narrowly defined within a particular segment of the community and in the last few weeks those complaints have been outnumbered by calls from people trying to find out when the project will finally be up for investment.

“Generally, we want to provide a product that people want to live work and play in,” Moskovitz said.

“It has some advantages, it’s built into a cliff, has a spectacular view and allows people to live close to the water, so people can go boating and play watersports and so on. It provides a lifestyle people want.”

Landstar president and CEO George Mylonas added that they’re aware that area residents are concerned about how their lifestyle will be affected and they’ve done what they can to accommodate their concerns and improve upon the design.

“When you embark on a project like this, you sit down and listen to stakeholders,” Mylonas said. “We have had public open houses where we solicited ideas and we’ve incorporated many of them — the best ideas we see in developments don’t come from developers, they come from people.”

Mylonas said they’ve helped refine the ideas they will one day incorporate, should the plan get to that point.

While the public hearing and third reading are the bureaucratic hurdles that are the focus in the short term, the fact remains that this behemoth development is coming along in a time when real estate appears to be on a downturn, particularly because of the speculation tax.

That’s not a concern for Mylonas.

“When is the right time for a development?” he said. “The time we chose to enter the market, we knew full well it would take us time get land use permits and the development was years away. This is a development we can see for the longer term. Once we get past the land use stage, that’s when real detail starts and you start looking at the market.”

The speculation tax, he said, probably shocked people when it came along, but once the shock is over and people realize it’s here to stay, it won’t have the same impact.

“You just have to take a 25-, 35-, 40-year view for this kind of development,” he said. “And we are bullish in this area.”

The public hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23 in West Kelowna.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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