Kelowna councillors pushing for more height and density for Central Green | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna councillors pushing for more height and density for Central Green

An artist's rendering of the Central Green site.
January 09, 2018 - 3:39 PM

KELOWNA - What was supposed to be a signature mixed used residential development project marking the gateway to Kelowna is turning into just an ordinary condo project.

That’s the fear behind resistance by city councillors to the latest development proposal for the Central Green project, site of the former Kelowna Secondary School, city councillor Ryan Donn says.

“That was supposed to be a 12-storey tower on that site,” Donn said. "We’ve got a $4-million park going in there and a tax-payer funded pedestrian overpass over the highway. I think the essential expectation we have for that site is higher."

Donn and five other councillors voted Monday to defer approval of the proposal by Al Stober Construction to build a five-storey, 108-unit rental apartment building.

Stober bought the KSS site in 2014 for $6 million which came with a comprehensive development plan attached but Donn says the developer is not sticking to the original terms.

The master plan included two 12-storey towers, but Donn said the developer told council for the first time it would not be building them.

“They are veering off quite dramatically and that’s the first time we heard that,” Donn said. “That’s the first time they are saying no towers, they are unfeasible and here’s the reason.”

An employee who answered the phone at Al Stober Construction on Tuesday would not put through the call to company representative Bob Daigenais.

"We're declining comment, thank you," she said before hanging up.

Monday’s decision by six councillors to defer the decision — Couns. Luke Stack, Maxine DeHart and Mayor Colin Basran were absent — did the developer a favour, Donn said, allowing them to come back quickly with a modified plan.

“I would have shot it down if it had been up to me but (Coun. Brad Sieben) saved them with the deferral motion,” Donn said. “Otherwise they would have had to wait six months before they could come back.”

While the developer has cited geotechical concerns and the cost of building a concrete-high rise as reason for the change, Donn says he believes the company doesn’t want to take the risk of building another highrise in what may soon be a crowded high-rise market.

Community planning manager Ryan Smith said the master plan that accompanied the Central Green site was never legally binding and more of a guideline for what the public would tolerate rather than what they wanted to see.

He said the Central Green site, as with most large developments, comes with a series of guidelines and regulations.

“The guidelines are 'you should try to do', the regulations are 'you must do,'” Smith said. “There was never anything that said you must build 20 storeys or 12 storeys.”

There is also some restriction on the amount of parking on the site because of its proximity to the highway, Smith added.

Smith said his staff will meet with Stober’s design team within the next few weeks and gauge their appetite for changing their propoosal.

Coun. Sieben, who moved to defer the application instead of defeating it, said he would also like to get more of an idea of Stober’s plans for the last remaining parcel, because it would affect how he views the current application.

“It’s been like this all along: the height will be here, no, now it’s there, no, now it’s over there, now it’s 'are we going to see it at all,'” Sieben said. “I would like to make a decision based on the new information, whatever that is.”

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