Costco has cleared the first hurdle in its controversial effort to relocate within Kelowna.
City council gave first reading to rezoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment applications for the contentious move at its Monday, Nov. 23 meeting. The applications will now move to what is anticipated to be a busy public hearing next month.
The new proposed location in a six-hectare property at the corner of Leckie, Baron and Springfield roads is a short 770 metres away from the big box store’s current location along Highways 97 and 33 but will allow for a larger building, with more parking and a gas bar.
Despite the short move, city planning manager Ryan Smith said the application was complex to process in terms of traffic impact.
“This area, being the hourglass through the middle of our city, is a busy area,” he said. “Intersections in this area are nearing or at capacity in a number of cases without Costco.”
Bringing Costco in, Smith said, adds a number of trips through that corridor. Because of that, Costco has agreed to pay around $2.5 million for several road improvements in the area. However, Smith noted, Costco “can’t fund every single improvement in the area” and some will fall to other developments and the city.
Smith said the development would not compromise city objectives in the mid-town urban centre. Giving a peek as to what the soon-to-release 2040 OCP will look like, Smith said the city anticipates further densification of the mid-town area, with a goal of 1,100 new units in the area and potentially upwards of 2,000.
“In terms of our urban centre hierarchy, mid-town probably the furthest behind in terms of becoming a true urban centre,” he said. “That’s another reason we considered this site.
“We don’t believe it’s a major compromise … There are a number of other opportunities to achieve the density that we’d anticipated in the area over the life of the OCP.”
Smith also noted that if in the future, Costco vacates the site, it would be easy to redevelop for more high-density housing.
Regardless of the assurances from council of Costco-funded road improvements, councillors still mirrored community concerns regarding traffic. Councillors Loyal Wooldridge and Charlie Hodge hesitated in giving their support to the first reading but wanted the matter to move to a public hearing so the community would be able to give its input.
The public hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8. To allow for proper social distancing for the high number of people expected to show up, the city said it is hoping to allow up to 50 people to view the deliberation from the Kelowna Community Theatre across the street, entering council chambers when it’s their time to speak.
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