Kelowna city council has finally found a compromise for development of a waterfront park in South Pandosy that most, if not all, can live with.
On Monday, council received a round of applause from a packed gallery as it rejected a staff recommendation to approve a development plan for 11 city-owned waterfront lots near the foot of Cedar Avenue that would have included creation of a 5,740 square-metre park.Instead, council opted for an alternate plan that calls for a park nearly twice that size.
And in doing so, council also dropped an associated proposal to sell two of the lots at the north end of the parcel to help pay for development of the park.
The key difference between the two plans is Abbott Street will not be realigned under the adopted proposal and as a result, will not cut the city owned properties in half.
That move would have allowed land on the east side of what was being called the new Abbott Parkway to be sold off for development.
“I’m super excited,” said Michael Neil, an area resident and Kelowna businessman who led the three-year effort to press the city to keep as much land as possible for the proposed waterfront park in South Pandosy. “I’m just so glad they (council) took the time to look at this,” he said.
With every councillor and the mayor speaking to the issue following a presentation from city staff—some twice—it was clear council was divided on the two options before them.
Known as “refined option one” and “refined option four,” the former originally included selling the two lots at the north end of the property to raise money to pay for the $4.9-million park.
The sale of the properties would have returned the city about $1.7 million, said a report to council.
The other option did not include selling any potential park land, instead carving off property the city already owns by realigning Abbott Street and allowing development on the east side of the new road while using the property on the west side, between the road and the lakeshore, as park.
The latter plan would have cost $4 million but according to city staff would have been more than offset by a return of about $4.4 million from the sale of land east of the new Abbott Parkway for development.
A three-day design workshop, known as a charrette, took place earlier this year and featured representatives of the public and several associated groups. Three of the four tables at the charrette favoured the realigned Abbott Street model.
But many members of the public who showed up to view the work of the charrette opposed realigning the road because they felt it would carve off land they felt should be used for park.
In debating the issue, city councillors stated their preferences for the two recommended options with the final vote on the smaller park option going down 5-3. Mayor Walter Gray, and Couns. Luke Stake and Gail Given voted for the smaller park option, while Couns. Andre Blanleil, Colin Basran, Mohini Singh, Gerry Zimmerman and Maxine DeHart voted against it.
Coun. Robert Hobson, who lives in the area, excused himself because of a conflict of interest and did not take part in the discussion or the vote.
In supporting the bigger park option, Blanleil and Basran both said a potential hotel that could be built on an adjoining piece of privately owned property will not be as intrusive on the park as some may feel.
And they said putting a road between it and the waterfront park would mean it would not be a waterfront hotel.
They, along with Singh, both said they wanted to see the city build as big a park as possible, one that will attract people to the waterfront in the area.
The proposed new park will link two smaller existing parks Abbott and Wall—at the north and south ends respectively.
The 11 city owned properties are located on the lakeshore just east of the South Pandosy commercial area.
When Zimmermann said he was not in favour of carving any land off for development, the standing room only crowd in the galley at city hall applauded, prompting the mayor to tell them it was “a meeting, not a rally.”
But that did not stop the crowd from applauding more as the debate went on.
Both Given and Stack questioned if the area square footage under the larger park option would in fact be nearly twice the size of the version staff had recommended, given the former included several “hard surface” areas such as roads, walkways and riparian areas.
Given also noted that three-quarters of the participants at the charrette seemed to opt for a plan that included realigning Abbott Street.
Like Stack, she also felt the public may not feel comfortable using public property that appeared to be part of a hotel development.
But in the end, the vote was clear. After defeating Stack’s motion to accept the smaller park option, a vote to approve the alternative, with an amendment that the two northern lots not be sold off, passed unanimously.
City staff will now come with a further report in late June or July refining the costs and laying out a time frame for work.
The work could be completed before the end of this council’s current mandate in December.
Without selling the two properties, the cost of new park could surpass $5.4 million, money that the city has not yet set aside.
Still, for those who have fought the city over the issue up until now, the outcome was seen as a victory.
“Now that’s a plan,” said area resident Joy Lambrick as she left council chambers smiling. “It’s been a long struggle.”
In 2011, the council of the day tried to present a plan for development of the land as both park and commercial development but strong public opposition scuttled that bid.
This story, as previously reported, included incorrect information that has been changed. While the original story stated the vote on the smaller park option was defeated 5-3, the way council members voted was reported incorrectly. The correct tally was Mayor Walter Gray and Couns. Luke Stake and Gail Given voted for the smaller park option, while Couns. Andre Blanleil, Colin Basran, Mohini Singh, Gerry Zimmerman and Maxine DeHart voted against it.