Developer blames himself for public outrage in Kelowna this week - InfoNews

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Developer blames himself for public outrage in Kelowna this week

This is a drawing of he proposed Abbott Park housing development that sparked controversy in Kelowna this week.
Image Credit: From Abbott Park's Facebook page
May 16, 2019 - 6:00 PM

KELOWNA - The developer behind a controversial Kelowna city council reconsideration this week says it all could have been avoided if only he’d done his job better.

Craig Mohr is the owner of Abbott Park Holdings. His rezoning application for a six-storey high-end residential building in South Pandosy was defeated due to a tie vote in April and brought back to city council this week for reconsideration by Mayor Colin Basran, using his mayoralty privilege.

That move sparked many angry comments from opponents and one death threat against Basran.

“I feel largely responsible for a lot of what’s happened in last couple of days,” Mohr told today, May 16. “I think an open house would have prevented all of this. Unfortunately, because of some of my errors, Colin has had to suffer the brunt of that. I feel terrible about that.”

Mohr has been a developer in Kelowna for 17 years, winning a number of homebuilding awards.

He bought the land on Groves Avenue three years ago at a premium price, he said, and took on a financial partner to help fund the project.

So when council turned down his rezoning application, Mohr made an appointment to meet with Basran and asked for a reconsideration so he didn’t have to wait six months for a new hearing, wracking up interest charges on his financing.

“We felt it was appropriate to come to the mayor to ask for the reconsideration,” Mohr said. “After we had given our points, he briefly mentioned he was already considering bringing this back to council for reconsideration. He felt there was quite a bit of passion with some of the council members that this could be changing the course of the look and feel of the Pandosy Village and, Colin felt, if there was that strong of feelings on the part of council members, it was important that all the council members be involved in that decision.”

Coun. Ryan Donn was absent from the April vote.

Donn told that Basran told him the reconsideration was coming and that it was his (Donn’s) responsibility to review the minutes and tape of the meeting he had missed, which he did.

Donn said he did not discuss the merits of the rezoning with Basran or tell the mayor how he was going to vote.

“If I don’t know how I’m going to vote, how would Colin know?” Donn asked, explaining that he waited to hear what his fellow councillors had to say before making up his mind.

That being said, Donn did say he does vote consistently on certain matters and did support increasing density in core areas during his election campaign. He would not elaborate further as he’s not allowed to make comments until fourth reading is given to the rezoning application.

Mohr said he does not know Donn and did not speak to him about the rezoning.

He also said he does not know Basran well but has run into him and said hello at a number of charity and business events over the years.

He did contribute the maximum $1,200 to Basran’s re-election campaign last fall in response to a social media appeal, Mohr said. He doesn’t think it influenced the decision. He’s about the same age as Basran and agrees with many, but not all, of his positions.

One point of disagreement is a development permit that Basran voted against last year. That was for a duplex for Mohr and his parents. He met with Basran at that time to get some idea of what changes he needed to make to get the project accepted and will be going back to council with a revised application.

That was before last fall’s election and before Mohr donated to Basran’s campaign.

The last time Basran used his mayoral prerogative to ask council to reconsider an application was in October 2017. That was for a Troika Developments housing application on Mission Springs Road.

Troika’s Chief Executive Officer, Renee Wasylyk, donated $1,250 to Basran’s 2014 election campaign. That was before the $1,200 donation cap was set.

For that project, called Green Square, a development variance permit had been applied for.

“We know we have a housing crunch in this community and there will be development on this property at some point,” Basran told council at that meeting, saying the developer should not have to wait six months to make changes. And, in that case, the revised application would still have to be open to public input.

In March 2018, Basran voted against Wasylyk and Troika's major Diamond Mountain proposal.

Wasylyk is not listed among those who donated $100 or more to Basran’s 2018 re-election campaign. Anyone who donated less than $100 did not have to be listed.

Mohr’s Abbott Park project also needs a development variance permit, which means the public has a right to comment.

He’s already met with the three most vocal opponents and turned them into supporters, he said. He plans to hold an open house before that permit goes to council in order to better explain the project and, he expects, to gain the support of his critics.

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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