Kelowna may shift focus from buying parkland to building parks - InfoNews

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Kelowna may shift focus from buying parkland to building parks

Image Credit: Facebook/Michael C. Vogt
June 17, 2019 - 3:30 PM

KELOWNA - With the public clamouring for parks to be built, City of Kelowna staff are proposing a short term cut back on buying land in order to put more money into developing parks.

“There’s a desire to see a tilt, over the next couple of years, to potentially reduce the amount we would budget for parkland acquisition to allow for development to come on sooner,” Derek Edstrom, the city’s director of community planning told city council today, June 17. “It is our goal as staff, if we move this forward, that we are going to try to bring on some significant parks as soon as we can.”

The “this” that Edstrom was referring to are new charges to developers that could cost them $7,180 per residential unit starting in 2020.

What it means for parks development is that the South Pandosy waterfront park and Dehart Park could be built much sooner than currently projected, Rutland Centennial Park renovations could be finished sooner, as would improvements to the four major recreational parks. Plus, 19 new neighbourhood parks could be built in the next 10 years.

Just what will get built and when won’t be revealed until the new fees are approved.

Currently, the city is running a deficit of $9.5 million a year in the money it needs to build parks. Developers, for now, contribute to buying the land but not to building the parks.

Even if the new fees are approved, they only go part way towards the cost of building parks.

The province only allows such fees to be used for things like site grading, irrigation, lawns, landscaping and washrooms. They can’t be used for things like playing fields, basketball or tennis courts, parking, access roads and gazebos.

That’s why 27 per cent of the new Infrastructure Levy on taxpayers is proposed to go towards park construction.

Council gave initial support to the proposed changes at its meeting today, but had some questions about the timing of when all the new fees should be implemented.

Next Tuesday, June 25, city staff will meet with developers through the Urban Development Institute and Canadian Home Builder’s Association to talk about the proposed new fees before hosting a public open house at the Royal Anne Hotel downtown from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

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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