Three candidates who think Kelowna councillors strayed too far from plans - InfoNews

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Three candidates who think Kelowna councillors strayed too far from plans

October 15, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - When a city is growing fast and shows no signs of slowing down, it can be tough for residents to understand what’s going on.

Residents rely, to a certain extent, on the plans and bylaws of a town or city to understand what may be built and where, but that becomes complicated when councillors override them with variance requests.

We asked candidates this question: Kelowna is undergoing an unprecedented construction boom. Planning staff have recommended, and Kelowna council has endorsed, several variances that allowed the height of downtown highrises to go well beyond what the zoning allowed.  Do you believe development variances should be allowed or should zoning restrictions be adhered to?

Nearly all candidates agreed that variances are required to allow councillors to remain flexible. But we also found three who strongly opposed.

Make a plan, stick to the plan

Craig Hostland: The OCP is a long-term business plan based present conditions at the time of review and adoption. It should be revisited if basic municipal parameters or economic indicators change, but otherwise should remain consistent to the vision of council. (He then endorses Gord Lovegrove)

Gordon Lovegrove
Gordon Lovegrove
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook

Gord Lovegrove: I do not agree with Kelowna City Council endorsing regular development variances. It is then pointless to have them. It is too easy. Council should seriously study the proposal and variance asked.

Mo Rajabally: I do not agree with Kelowna City Council endorsing regular development variances. Council should seriously study the proposal and variance asked.

Remain flexible

Colin Basran (for mayor): Under the right circumstances, taking into consideration our professional city staff who are trained in community planning, a variance should be considered if it is in the best interest of Kelowna.

Wayne Carson: Development Variances are necessary if Council and the city wish to move forward with the type of growth we have come to expect. The more critical issue is to tie development with the transportation needs that come with this level and type of growth

Ryan Donn:I believe that the by-laws need to be updated to reflect that change and as of yet they aren't. I do think that as we build tall we need to focus on preserving our cultural and event spaces.

Tom Dyas (for mayor): Variances are a way to adjust properties to market demands. We need to ask how has the variance and the development contributed to the community?

Gail Given: Zoning regulations are developed for an average typical lot and can shift with time and the changing needs of a community.  In short, yes I support the use of variances.

Charlie Hodge: Both. Some variances make sense and some zoning restrictions lack logic.

Graeme James: In some instances, I believe that variances should be granted and should be assessed on a case by case basis. However, if we grant variances, I think that the citizens of Kelowna should benefit in some way, e.g. park space, contributions to affordable housing, etc.

Dustin Sargent: I do believe in development variances. We are faced with an unprecedented construction boom and community growth and with that come variables to be considered under case by case studies.

Brad Sieben: Variances are looked at on a case by case basis and should she handled in this manner

Mohini Singh: We need to cap how many high rises we allow in the downtown in order to preserve view corridors. I do consider variances on a case by case basis. I wouldn’t support their total elimination because we are often asked to look at developments from a new or different perspective.

Luke Stack: Personally I do not have an issue with taller buildings down town and I have supported the variances to increase heights. Together with heights however, I have also pushed for improved storefronts and pedestrian interface areas at the street level.

Loyal Wooldridge: To achieve attainable rental and market purchase housing we must enable developers to invest in our city.  Variances will always be on the table but each application must adhere to stringent and thoughtful planning to ensure residents benefit long term.

These candidates did not respond.

Lindsay Bell

Kevin Bond

Mark Boyer

Greg Dahms

Maxine DeHart

Bobby Kennedy

Amarjit Singh Lalli

Jeff Piattelli

Bob Schewe

Full responses

Colin Basran: Each variance is looked at on a case by case basis. Not all variances are related to height. Sometimes variances are requested to allow for a unique design to make a project more aesthetically pleasing. There are various reasons why variances are accepted. Under the right circumstances taking into consideration our professional city staff who are trained in community planning, a variance should be considered if it is in the best interest of Kelowna.

Wayne Carson: Development Variances are necessary if Council and the city wish to move forward with the type of growth we have come to expect.  The more critical issue is to tie development with the transportation needs that come with this level and type of growth.  This is something the current Mayor and Council seem to be oblivious of and it is not being addressed as traffic on the main corridors through town are in or close to gridlock.

Ryan Donn: I believe in "Tall not sprawl". Some of Kelowna's bylaws are written from a time when we believed in "sprawl not tall". I believe that the by-laws need to be updated to reflect that change and as of yet they aren't. I do think that as we build tall we need to focus on preserving our cultural and event spaces. We have seen three cultural assets close over this past term. Cultural space is something that our city needs to address as we densify.

Mo Rajabally: I do not agree with Kelowna City Council endorsing regular development variances. Council should seriously study the proposal and variance asked.

Tom Dyas: Variances are a way to adjust properties to market demands, make sure that the needs of the community are being met, and bringing the community's vision to life.  The conversation shouldn’t just about height alone, its about what we as a community are gaining for that height.  We need to ask how has the variance and the development contributed to the community, and is it more beautiful because of it?  Is it meeting the need that's have been establish in our Official Community Plan? But that's true of any variance, not height alone.

Gail Given: Zoning regulations are developed for an average typical lot and can shift with time and the changing needs of a community.  While the regulations are a starting point it is fair to say that each lot and project are unique, with unique constraints and attributes.  Variances allow us to respond to the unique nature of each lot.  Planning staff provide qualified and professional advice to council as to whether or not a project meets the intent of our zoning bylaw and the long-term needs of a well-planned community.  A cookie cutter approach to development would leave us with a monotonous and uninspired public realm.  We would certainly not achieve highest and best use of our very limited land base nor best-in-class projects. So, in short, yes I support the use of variances.

Charlie Hodge: Both. Some variances make sense and some zoning restrictions lack logic.

Craig Hostland:The OCP is a long-term business plan based present conditions at the time of review and adoption. It should be revisited if basic municipal parameters or economic indicators change, but otherwise should remain consistent to the vision of council. This is where huge pitfalls can occur and as such I support only world class thinking and decision-making. That is, adopt the well-articulated and researched vision and plans of Gord Lovegrove who is also running for council. Gord is a world class planning and design engineer for sustainable human developments. Go to Lovegrovekelowna.ca for the details. They are life changing for me and my level of interest in municipal government and will be life changing for the City of Kelowna as it struggles to maintain its quality of life, fight traffic congestion, control street drugs, crime, and homelessness. This well captured vision, accepted by Council will be the foundation for a brilliant City future. That will form the basis for the City plan. A plan that no council would then want to tinker with by allowing variances. This consistency of vision, and strength of purpose will undergird a consistent confidence in the development and construction industry which will result in investment confidence in a well more intricate densification which then will allow for  sustainable transportation systems and maintaining the existing balance of green space to urban development while addressing growth.

Graeme James: In some instances I believe that variance should be granted and should be assessed on a case by case basis. However, if we a grant variances I think that the citizens of Kelowna should benefit in some way, e.g. park space, contributions to affordable housing, etc.

Gordon Lovegrove: There are two issues to address in this question: 1) Are high-rises ever appropriate?  2) Are variances ever appropriate?  First, I support growth and tall buildings in general, but with due consideration of neighbors, view corridors, wind tunnels, shading profiles, and civic infrastructure requirements (i.e. transit, access, traffic, utilities).  If these raise concerns that cannot be addressed, then perhaps another location, a shorter building, or no building at all is the answer.  So there is a time and place for high-rises in every great city, depending on the context.  Great examples of thriving cities where high-rises work well include Rotterdam (600,000 population), known as the ‘funky town’ of the Netherlands.  Thriving cities where high-rises do not work well, and where instead one finds 4 to 6 story buildings include Boulder, CO (90,000), perhaps more similar to Kelowna.

Second, and I think the larger question, regards variance.  I have often heard that Kelowna’s Zoning Bylaw needs a complete overhaul and updating to provide more principled and less prescriptive zoning provisions – this would allow staff and council to take a strategic step back, and ask the larger questions, such as “What social value does this proposed hig-hrise add to Kelowna?”  This is a common evaluation technique used for every hig-hrise proposal by the Rotterdam City Architect/Planner, Dr Marc Verheijen, who some of you might recall I asked to come present in May 2017 at a packed out Kelowna Yacht Club regarding the future of downtown Kelowna and Highway 97, as part of Imagine Kelowna consultations.  I recommend you get Marc’s book on the functional ambiance design method, entitled “Infratecture”.  I have English copies I can lend out on a first come, first serve basis.

I do not agree with Kelowna City Council endorsing regular development variances. It is then pointless to have them. It is too easy. Council should seriously study the proposal and variance asked.

Dustin Sargent: I do believe in development variances. As your question stated we are faced with an unprecedented construction boom and community growth and with that come variables to be considered under case by case studies. This goes beyond just construction development as its the same for infrastructure changes to roads and services outside the Official Community Plan that receive less public notoriety but are just influential.

Brad Sieben: Variances are looked at on a case by case basis and should she handled in this manner.    As we look to densify the urban core, the current zoning guideline re: height should be re-evaluated and perhaps adjusted to fall more in line with what makes sense for the respective areas.

Mohini Singh: The natural landscape of the valley is what makes Kelowna so unique.  The lake is our jewel. If we obscure or block it through development we will lose what makes the city a world class destination and place to live.  I feel we need to cap how many high rises we allow in the downtown in order to preserve view corridors. I do consider variances on a case by case basis. I wouldn’t support their total elimination because we are often asked to look at developments from a new or different perspective. The Official Community Plan is going through a review in 2019, I would encourage all residents to get involved in the process to help inform the future planning of our city.

Luke Stack: Firstly, it is noteworthy to acknowledge that it was a former City Council that determined the bylaws that govern building height in the down town core today. A future Council can alter or vary the heights depending on what they believe is best for the City. Personally I do not have an issue with taller buildings down town and I have supported the variances to increase heights. Together with heights however, I have also pushed for improved storefronts and pedestrian interface areas at the street level.

Loyal Wooldridge:  To best answer this question, it’s important to know why variances are in place throughout the Official Community Plan (OCP).  These zoning restrictions allow staff and council the opportunity to review each application on a case by case basis.  Often it is required that a developer must pay for additional community improvements in exchange for their Development Permit.  In addition, many zoning restrictions were created prior to the need and technology for larger more densified projects, which are helping to address our housing shortage.

Understandably as the increase for housing continues it makes sense that the more folks that live on one parcel of land the smaller the environmental footprint.  Additionally, a developer is able to provide a lower unit cost when there are a higher number of units contained in the building.

I’ve heard from residents that we must evolve our OCP with clear expectations as to where larger towers can and should be placed in the city.  One of our biggest, treasured assets is Okanagan Lake and we must ensure that frontage is accessible to the public and views are respected.  The fact is, to achieve attainable rental and market purchase housing we must enable developers to invest in our city.  Variances will always be on the table but each application must adhere to stringent and thoughtful planning to ensure residents benefit long term.


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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