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West Kelowna council stalls Gellatly Road upgrades

Lois Bennett sits near a Katsura tree just off Gellatly Road. She was happy to see that District of West Kelowna council delayed Gellatly Road phase three upgrades Tuesday. Bennett is strongly against the removal of 41 Katsura trees along Gellatly Road, which would have been replaced if the construction was given the green light. - Douglas Farrow / Contributor
Lois Bennett sits near a Katsura tree just off Gellatly Road. She was happy to see that District of West Kelowna council delayed Gellatly Road phase three upgrades Tuesday. Bennett is strongly against the removal of 41 Katsura trees along Gellatly Road, which would have been replaced if the construction was given the green light.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

The district has pulled the plug on phase three upgrades to Gellatly Road just days before the proposed start of construction.

Several factors caused five members of council to vote in favour of delaying the project during Tuesday's council meeting.

The top concern was parking.

"Right now parking is at a premium. One of the reasons is that the improvements we've made over the last several years have attracted a lot of our residents and visitors down to that area," said Milsom.

"The population is going to grow—it's going to be a more popular area. Where's the alternative parking?"

Another issue was the removal of 41 Katsura trees that would have occurred had the construction contract been approved.

Don Burnett, a certified arborist, released a report July 22 claiming that only one of the Katsura trees is not viable. He added that 40 of the 41 trees are in various levels of condition; however, none of them are "in decline."

"Mr. Burnett enjoys an excellent reputation and I think his five-page report is sufficient to suggest that we take a sober second thought to establish if the trees are sick or not," said Coun. David Knowles.

Director of engineering and operations Gary O'Rourke said that it will be very difficult and costly to create the type of road council is looking for—including bike lanes—while keeping the large Katsura trees intact.

Councillors also voiced concerns about the timing of the project, which would have began in August—potentially disrupting the optimum season for usage by the public.

A final concern was that the lowest construction bid was still over $700,000 more than the district had budgeted for Gellatly Road phase three upgrades.

Mayor Doug Findlater said he still wanted to go through with the phase three upgrades and said that was the wish of most of the community as well.

After council decided to reject the bids, Findlater said he didn't want to waste any more time or money on further redesign plans.

"I refuse to fool around and dither on this any more," said Findlater.

"We've spent $100,000 on design and then haven't liked it when we've gone all the way to tenure. . .I think we should walk away from this, cut our losses and do something that's achievable."

Despite Findlater's sentiments, council directed district staff to provide a cost analysis for another redesign of the phase three upgrades.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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