West Kelowna council taps the brakes on controversial church development - InfoNews

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West Kelowna council taps the brakes on controversial church development

A Devon Road church development is being opposed by West Kelowna residents.
July 04, 2020 - 3:40 PM

A groundswell of public opposition against a West Kelowna church development has been noted by local politicians, potentially changing the trajectory of the controversial project.

West Kelowna city council voted last week to rescind second reading of an Official Community Amendment bylaw and Zoning Amendment bylaw for a property at 1090 Devon Road.

Rolling back to the first reading may not sound like much, but council is also asking the developer of the Evangel Baptist Church to come back to the table with additional information about the project, including community consultation.

That latter piece may not go well in the old County Pines subdivision, which rallied against the project. Since the start they've said it's too big for the residential area and would require too much upheaval in an ecologically sensitive area.

Now the proposal has become even bigger, which is one of the reasons why Paul Gipps, West Kelowna’s Chief Administrative Officer, brought it back to council. 

The church was originally pitched to be 6,000 square feet and the latest proposal has it set at 12,000 square feet. It also originally had planned for 55 parking stalls, and now it’s looking at 110.

Council seemed glad to see it return, with Coun. Doug Findlater initially suggesting that they roll back two readings of the bylaws.

READ MORE: West Kelowna residents fight against church development

“If you recall when this first came to council I was asked I there would be traffic improvements (to Westlake Road) and I was told it wasn’t merited but now it looks like there would be as the project has doubled,”  Coun. Doug Findlater said. “I wouldn’t support it for that alone.”

Also, multiple councillors pointed out that it would also put a lot more pressure on a relatively quiet subdivision and there wouldn’t be a lot of return once the development was put into place.

Coun. Jason Zilke pointed out that churches are tax exempt so there wouldn’t be a lot of benefit to the community from its construction.

“We’ve heard from the public and I can’t personally ignore that,” Coun. Jason Friesen said.

“I think the only way I would support this is if they could sway public opinion.”

The general consensus was that would cost a lot of money and effort, but it’s up to the developer if that is the route they want to take.

Leading the charge against the development is area resident Wade Neukomm, who said the sheer size of the development and the number of people it would have to accommodate would mean significant change to the area.

Among his concerns was the painted turtle, which is an at risk species that makes the area its home. 

“This pair of water systems has been choked by humans ever since they started coming into this area, starting with the gravel pits and the development of this road,” Neukomm said.

“So we’re all active participants in its demise, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it. This would be the last nail in the coffin. This is the last frontage of the two ponds that isn’t fully developed.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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