To the dismay of more than 30 affected residents in the gallery during Tuesday night’s public hearing, City of Kelowna councillors voted to approve of a six-storey multi-use rental and commercial development on West Avenue in Pandosy.
The project, proposed by Mission Group Rentals Ltd., required a rezoning to C4 — Urban Centre Commercial zone — and an Official Community Plan (OCP) amendment to allow for mixed use, including commercial.
The 48-unit purpose-built rental housing project would offer one- to three-bedroom units, a landscaped rooftop terrace and street-level retail, but will require variances from the medium density housing allowance (RM5) to accommodate the additional height totalling 18.3 metres — a 0.3m variance — and a 1.5-storey difference.
Ultimately, councillors saw those differences as only a slight stray from what was already allowed on the two properties purchased by the Mission Group two years ago and voted in support of the rezoning and OCP amendment.
Mayor Colin Basran said he was surprised at the opposition the proposal has received.
“You’d think it was a 15-storey building being proposed here,” he said. “I agree that South Pandosy is not downtown, and I’m not trying to make it downtown, but a small bump about what’s currently called for in the OCP and what’s being proposed is not, in my estimation, that dramatic. And to me, it fits in with what the OCP is — it’s a guiding document, it’s not set in stone.”
“This is a project that I can support because it’s not a huge deviation of what currently exists,” he added.
Coun. Gail Given said she is excited about the potential of more rentals in the area.
“At the end of the day I have to look at this and say, ‘how far is it from what is actually planned there,’ and it’s only small degrees of change,” said Given, adding she believes this project may result in a nicer amenity than an RM5 building.
Several members of the community spoke out before the vote, urging council to deny the application as the proposed development would attract more traffic with its retail offerings, “destroy the characteristics” of the neighbourhood and create additional competition for parking in the already busy area of South Pandosy.
Given agreed with residents’ worries regarding traffic. She said it is likely to increase in all five urban centres of the city designated in the OCP, as that is where investments for densification are targeting.
“I don’t believe (the development) destroys the character of the neighbourhood,” Basran said. “I think this will actually enhance the urban vibe of what is a great urban centre.”
Many residents also commented they simply did not like the design of the project as there was no street-level greenery offered and the rooftop terrace may be a source of undesirable noise, especially in the evenings.
South Pandosy boasts a village feel, neighbours told council Tuesday night, but a six-storey building may detract from that esthetic. The developer’s representative, executive vice-president Luke Turri said the unique and vibrant location lends itself to the “boutique apartment.”
“Urban centres really do require a mix of housing forms to be successful in the long-term. That’s a mix of size, type and tenure, as well,” Turri said.
“South Pandosy is really significantly underserved with purpose-built rentals,” he said. “It’s actually difficult to think of a purpose rental that’s been built there in the last couple of decades.”
Councillors agreed. The development of purpose-built rentals is a recognized need in Kelowna, as the vacancy rate is low and prices continue to rise. However, councillors acknowledged the need to develop an urban centre plan for Pandosy soon as interest in the area continues to grow.