Kelowna council ‘dumps’ Diamond Mountain development proposal

Location near city’s landfill prompts council to refuse to approve area structure plan for the land

Saying it wanted to protect a major city asset—Kelowna’s dump—council rejected a plan to move forward with a project that could have seen up to 1,000 homes built just south of the Glenmore Landfill.

In a 5-2 vote Monday, council refused to allow an area structure plan for the 88-acre site that would have housed the proposed Diamond Mountain development. Diamond Mountain would have been a planned community featuring a mix of single and multi-family housing types, as well as parks and trails, said developer Renee Wasylyk, CEO of Troika Developments.

Council killed the project after city staff recommended against it, citing a number of nuisances future residents of Diamond Mountain would have faced from the nearby dump, including odour, dust and noise.

“Putting people in a sea of nuisances is, in my opinion, not good planning,” said Mayor Colin Basran, who voted with Councillors Maxine DeHart, Mohini Singh, Luke Stack and Ryan Donn to reject the area structure plan. Coun. Brad Sieben, who said he would have liked to have seen the issued deferred so more information could be gathered about future operation of the landfill, and Coun. Tracy Gray voted against rejecting it. Couns. Gail Given and Charlie Hodge were both absent.

Despite claiming the landfill is well run and meets all provincial standards, city engineer Kevin Van Vliet said it is not the type of operation that should be located beside a residential development. He said it is not the best neighbour because of the nuisances it produces, all inherent with dealing with the city’s solid waste.

And a majority of council agreed.

Coun. Luke stack said if you were to ask people on the street if it was a good idea to build 1,000 homes next to the landfill, instinctively, they would say no.

“Why would you do that? he asked. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Fearing complaints from future residents of Diamond Mountain that the city felt could affect the landfill’s operation or even lead to it closing down before its planned 2090 closing date, council made its decision.

In a lengthy presentation to council, Van Vliet argued it could cost the city millions if the landfill had to close early and the city had to find a new way to deal with its garbage. The Glenmore Landfill is the only dump in the Central Okanagan.

Several councillors referred to the landfill as a “jewel,” and compared it in terms of importance to Kelowna to the city’s airport and Okanagan Lake.

But Wasylyk accused council of making its decision not based on science but on fear. She claimed the development would not be affected by odour, dust and noise to the extent the city claimed.

“The science is clear,” Wasylyk said. “Diamond Mountain is safe. Diamond Mountain has no health issues. Diamond Mountain is the least affected area in the entire North Glenmore corridor. And, there is no scientific or regulatory reason for Diamond Mountain to not move forward.”

She told council that when it came to areas affected by nuisances caused by the dump, the nearby residential neighbourhood of Wilden is the most affected, followed by the UBC Okanagan campus, the McKinley area, the city’s airport, and the Quail Ridge development, according to a city-commissioned study.

“We are the least affected,” she said.

But her impassioned presentation was not enough to sway a majority of council members, who were told by Van Vleit that if the dump had to close early because of public complaints to the province, it could cost the city between $30 and $50 million dollars just to close down the operation. It could also also cost taxpayers an additional estimated $3 billion over the remaining life of the dump in lost revenue.

The Diamond Mountain lands are currently zoned to allow 17 10-acre properties and Wasylyk said that is what will now be built there.

The homes are expected to be big and expensive. In her presentation to council, she described that option as a “millionaires Mecca.”

Following the council meeting, Wasylyk accused the city council of bias, saying only Sieben and Gray seemed interested in her side of the argument.

She said while city staff were given more than 2 1/2 hours to speak and answer questions, she only had 30 minutes.

“It was a very biased process and that, I would say, is part of what I’m most disappointed about,” said Wasylyk outside city hall.

“There was not a lot of interest in listening. I would say Coun. Sieben and Coun. Gray were the most inquisitive. There was a very biased procedure that happened in there today.”

Wasylyk said she had been working on the area structure plan for Diamond Mountain since 2011.

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