A concept rendering of the proposed Costco at the corner of Baron, Leckie and Springfield roads. (WSP Global)

A concept rendering of the proposed Costco at the corner of Baron, Leckie and Springfield roads. (WSP Global)

Kelowna council approves rezoning for contentious Costco relocation

Despite feedback from residents, council gave Costco the green light on Tuesday evening

Despite critical feedback from residents, Kelowna city council has decided to move the proposed Costco relocation forward.

After nearly two-and-a-half hours of presentations, public input and deliberation, council approved an OCP amendment and rezoning application on Tuesday evening (Jan. 12) that will allow the big box store to move to the corner of Leckie, Baron and Springfield roads. The new location is 770 metres away from Costco’s current location along highways 33 and 97 but will allow for more parking, a larger warehouse and a gas bar. Councillors Loyal Wooldridge and Charlie Hodge were the lone votes against the rezoning as council passed the items by a 7–2 vote.

READ MORE: Kelowna implements revised public hearing protocols

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The primary concerns expressed by residents during the public hearing were traffic-related — as they have been since Costco announced its intentions for the site in 2019.

The area is abutted by several residential complexes — townhouses, apartment buildings and seniors homes — the residents of which say an already busy traffic situation in the area will only be exacerbated by the introduction of a Costco.

Council ultimately decided Costco had made a sufficient effort to remedy potential issues, with plans to invest around $2.5 million to partially fund upgrades for neighbouring roads. Those upgrades will include new turning lanes onto Leckie Road off Highway 97 and Springfield Road, widening Leckie to have four through lanes and one middle turning lane, and the implementation of a signalized intersection at Leckie and Parkview Crescent, among other improvements. Council was particularly excited by plans for a multi-use corridor along Leckie Road, improving cyclist and pedestrian access in the area, which was another concern expressed by residents.

“Although Costco and staff have worked hard to improve traffic flow, I still think it’s going to be a bit of a nightmare in that particular location,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge, adding the location is prime land for a different kind of development.

“You don’t find much land that large in our city anymore… This is not the best use of that land in a community that is rapidly running out of land for housing.”

Through the course of the public hearing, residents suggested more suitable locations for a new Costco, pointing north to a previously-discussed location near the airport. However, the location of developments is out of council’s hands.

“As councillors, you don’t get to choose what comes to council; you get to choose how you vote when it comes to council,” said Coun. Ryan Donn.

As the city continues to vie for more densification and overall compactness throughout the city in a residential context, resident Jean-Claude Gavrel suggested commercial developments need to be held to the same requirements. He said council needs to ask whether Costco needs more land or more space. Costco has maintained throughout the proceedings with the city that building either a parkade or a second floor to decrease the store’s footprint is not feasible.

“The current trend in urban development throughout the world is more compactness… If you’re going to apply compactness to residential you need to apply compactness to commercial as well,” Gavrel said, citing Ikea as a warehouse-style store that has successfully built “upwards instead of outwards.”

Those comments echoed with Mayor Colin Basran, who has long championed densification in the city, specifically within urban cores. But he also said the city needs balance within those core areas.

“Sprawl isn’t just residential, it’s also commercial,” he said, adding that moving the project to the outskirts of town would have been “just as detrimental” in different ways.

Basran maintained the growth lost by building a Costco instead of more residential units could be accommodated in other areas, both nearby and in other town centres.

The developers expressed an intention to have the new store open by Fall 2021, but shovels won’t hit the ground quite yet. Costco will now need to apply for a development permit, which will require council to take one more look at the proposal before it’s finalized.

For that, Basran outlined a few things he hopes will be addressed. He‘ll be looking for a good cycling and pedestrian experience in the area, showers and other end-of-trip facilities for Costco employees who want to bike to work and a strong landscaping plan to ensure that the facility integrates into the community.

The mayor also suggested future plans for a connection between the Okanagan Rail Trail and the Mission Park Greenway could be expedited as part of the planned improvements to the area. Currently, that plan is not scheduled to be set in motion until 2024.

READ MORE: Contentious Kelowna Costco relocation moved to public hearing

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
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