Technically speaking, the regional district meeting Monday night in Kelowna City Hall was to discuss the new official community plan for properties just outside the city’s limits in East Kelowna and the Mission.
In practice, it looked more like a dry run for Kelowna Mountain’s paperwork debut, when developers for the mammoth four-season resort community finally apply for zoning and development permits on the project they’re already erecting in the Mission.
Cameras were rolling—including those brought by the developer, KM lobbyists and investors—as three greyhound buses full of the development’s supporters filled the hearing space, foyer and the steps outside to reject the new planning document.
But the regional district directors were not impressed.
“It feels to me like an entire group was bused in to encourage us not to follow due process and I really have a big problem with that,” said Kelowna director Gail Given, addressing the sea of people sporting “Create 2800 jobs—stop the OCP” T-shirts.
Those in support of the mountain resort want its existence written into the new community plan from the outset, effectively circumventing any new regulations which might delay work. But the document before the directors does not include the year-round snowboarding facility, conference centre, vineyard, golf course, suspension bridges and trail system planned (and in many cases already built) for the property.
Residents of Lakeshore, Chute Lake and June Springs roads—the areas the new OCP covers—barely got a chance to register feedback on the development constraints, environmental protections and investment guidelines the plan sets out as lobbyists for the mountain dominated the public comment portion of the evening.
The regional directors were told a zoning application for KM has now been filed—as of Monday, May 14—though it was deemed incomplete. This got board’s chairman, Robert Hobson, wondering how the investors could back a plan that’s not seen the proper government scrutiny.
“As an investor, when would you expect a developer to start applying for permits from local government?” Hobson asked the first man to identify himself as a KM financial backer.
Several of regional district directors picked up the refrain, but the investors themselves appeared to care little about the indiscretions of the developer, indicating they were more concerned bureaucracy would waylay the jobs and tourism dollars the development heralds. One investor even indicated he has chartered a plane to bring scads of tour operators and journalists from China to see the project this fall.
Michael Boccio, a senior adviser to Donald Trump, said he is personally invested in the project and could see nothing wrong with the developer’s approach, noting the regional district should be thanking him for flipping the usual developer-local government relationship on its head. In this case, the developer is providing amenities upfront, without negotiation, rather than withholding them in exchange for variances or a relaxation of zoning guidelines, he said.
Controversial from the get-go, KM is the brainchild of developer Mark Consiglio, whose professional history includes several legal battles with investors.
Environmental advocates are already questioning many aspects of this project, pointing to the year-round snowboarding facilities—buoyed by water supplies as yet unprotected by provincial or regional governments—and water requirements of the vineyard and golf course as areas of concern.
But several other groups have also indicated they are not pleased with the new OCP document as presented by HB Lanarc-Golder, who drafted the OCP document and did the public consultation. Even the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nelson, as represented by local lawyer Tom Smithwick Monday evening, registered it’s opposition, noting its Seton House retreat and gravel pit over Kettle Valley have development potential the OCP severely curtails.
Residents of June Springs Road indicated they too were unhappy with the limitations on subdividing and development the OCP proposes, while one farmer from the end of Lakeshore thanked the directors for taking the time to put the plan in place. She said she wanted to see development controlled in the area.