Kelowna council being asked to pick winners and losers in residential development - InfoNews

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Kelowna council being asked to pick winners and losers in residential development

Wilden could have 900 fewer homes if Kelowna city council doesn't change its mind.
Image Credit: From Wilden web site
March 01, 2019 - 5:00 PM

KELOWNA - While developers are confident city council will back off its stance on suburban growth during its Monday council meeting, they are not going to sit back and do nothing if council digs in its heels.

In December, council agreed by a narrow 5-4 vote to limit the number of homes in the suburbs in order to concentrate housing in city centres but some councillors are wavering on that decision.

A report from staff going to council Monday details how the December vote will impact five major development areas. Wilden is the biggest loser while The Ponds comes out unscathed.

In all, staff are recommending 2,100 suburban homes not get built as the city population grows by 50,000 in the next 21 years.

“What I think is completely unfair is that we have, 20-something years ago, planned out our master plan together with the city, and have been given a go-ahead for our complete master plan and are not yet halfway through,” Karin Eger-Blenk, chairman of Blenk Development Corp. told iNFOnews.ca.

Her company is developing the massive Wilden neighbourhood that planned for 2,800 homes, a village centre and school in the Glenmore Highlands.

“They are taking out land we had planned for development and for creating the population that we need to support our infrastructure. This is where I say, ‘it can’t be right’,” Eger-Blenk said. “We have a partnership with the City. Always had. There were commitments. This is where I say, it’s definitely not fair."

Wilden is the biggest project City staff reviewed.

They all have approved, or were soon to present Area Structure Plans that outline the basic development plans for their massive developments.

Those plans designated certain parcels for housing but, until the land is actually rezoned, they do not guarantee the right to develop. Roads, water and sewer lines have been built in anticipation of, and accounting for, the full build. Without that full build-out, developers have overspent and risk losing money.

Wilden is hardest hit by the City’s change of plans by, potentially, losing 900 lots.

“Our break-even point is beyond where we are now,” Eger-Blenk said.

Without the entire Phase 3 of the project — which Wilden had planned to take for rezoning this spring — she has to determine if work to connect Begbie Road to Glenmore Road should continue and whether a commercial centre should be scrapped.

Part of city council’s concern about suburban development is the cost of servicing and impacts of traffic when growth is allowed in the outlying areas of the city.

In Wilden’s case, Eger-Blenk pointed out, it’s not at the fringes of the city but between major employment centres in Glenmore, UBCO and the airport. A commercial centre would also cut down on traffic outside the area and a full build-out could make transit and a school viable.

Thomson Flats is another area that’s taking a big hit.

Developers of the 631-acre site, roughly stretching from the southern extension of Gordon Drive past the Gillard Creek Forest Service Road in Upper Mission, have spent more than $500,000 over the last few years drafting a plan that was expected to go to council this spring.

Originally conceived as having room for 1,400 homes, it’s been scaled back to about 400, Andrew Bruce, Regional Manager for Kelowna Community Development and a former City of Kelowna planner, told iNFOnews.ca.

While it’s entirely undeveloped, it would provide an essential connection from Gordon Drive to the soon-to-be-built South Perimeter Road that includes a bridge across Bellevue Creek.

It’s getting developer contributions for that road that is cited by city staff as part of the reason that the Ponds development will be allowed to complete its full build-out of up to 1,000 units.

Similar to Wilden, it also needs that build-out to support its own commercial development.

Bruce argues the Thomson Flats project is simply a fill-in that will, for one thing, allow for major road connections.

The other two projects that will not be allowed their full build-out if council doesn’t change its mind is Black Mountain, losing up to 350 units and Kirschner Mountain that could drop by 450 units.

“You only get your money in the last third of your development,” noted Allan Kirschner, one of three brothers who own Kirschner Mountain Developments.

And, it’s the last third of these developments that are at risk.

Bruce, who also wrote most of a nine-page memo from the Urban Development Institute objecting to Council's restrictive vision, said it’s important to look at more than just the number of housing units.

The conversation needs to include the efforts to get commercial sites built in the suburbs to cut down on the need to drive, complete road networks, parks and schools.

He suggested that, despite the fact that the earlier Imagine Kelowna process included lots of public consultation, it’s time for residents to revisit these ideas now that more details are known.

No one contacted by iNFOnews.ca is threatening legal action. The city seems to be within its legal rights to make these changes. But if developers don’t get the decision they want on Monday, seeking legal advice is a distinct possibility.

“For sure we will not give in,” Eger-Blenk said. “We will definitely go ahead and fight for what we started. It’s a big vision we started here, a lot we invested here. No, we will not give up on the vision my father started.”


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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