Kelowna city council saw the $95 million infrastructure price-tag for the long-term Capri-Landmark Urban Centre development build-out and didn’t back down.
Council stuck to its self-imposed mandate to curb urban sprawl by focusing on higher density residential growth, and expressed its commitment for the city’s future growth priority plan with just a few concerns mentioned.
The urban centre, which also incorporates a major redevelopment for Capri Centre, is predicted to have 9,500 residents living within the corridor surrounding the Landmark Towers between Springfield and Harvey by 2040, accounting for about 13 per cent of the city’s overall projected population growth.
“It takes political courage to stand by our staff in this situation,” said Coun. Mohini Singh in response to the cost estimate report outlined by city planning staff.
“We’ve always hovered in the higher altitude on this strategy for urban growth and now we are in the weeds of the dollars and cents. I have some trepidation worrying about what people may think years from now whether this project was worth it, but this concept of growth is much better for taxpayers and the city moving forward.”
Mayor Colin Basran said the planning staff went the extra mile in crunching the numbers on the urban zone development initiative, far beyond what was done in the past with the other significant projects such as the upgrade of Bernard Avenue and the Civic Block plan.
“People might have been shocked to see what the potential costs were for those projects but they were the right things to do for the community in the end,” Basran said.
For the Capri-Landmark Urban Zone proposal, those cost factors include $52 million for transporation improvements, the single biggest expenditure being the realignment of Sutherland Avenue to connect between Gordon and Spall, and $35 million for park development and acquisition, based on the city policy of 2.2 hectares of park space for every 1,000 residents in a given area.
In direct cost, $32 million in direct taxation would be required to cover the urban zone, but the planning department report placed confidence in other funding options to be explored in the years ahead to off-set the projected tax revenue demand.
Planning officials also outlined to council that a similar scale residential project would cost 40 per cent more in North Glenmore and 30 per cent in the South Mission, saying the city gets a bigger bang for its buck by encouraging urban densification rather than suburban sprawl.
Basran said future councils will be challenged on making hard capital spending choices in future years, where other projects might be delayed or put on hold to accommodate Capri-Landmark infrastructure and parks needs, but the amenities need to be in place to draw residents to the urban centre.
Most councillors acknowledged this is a long-term plan, but having a plan in place will allow those amenity needs to be put in the queue for spending priority rather than be ignored or continually punted down the road, added Coun. Ryan Donn.
“This should no longer be on the back burner, it’s on the burner,” said Donn. “Otherwise it would not even be considered for the capital spending list. The question now is to we go ahead with a plan or have no plan. I think it is an obvious choice.”
Coun. Maxine DeHart called the urban centre proposal a “very, very bold plan,” but it’s for the long-term future of the city in the same way the revitalization of Bernard Avenue was visionary for the downtown core.
“The Bernard project was the best thing we ever did. If the council of the day didn’t support that project, what would have happened to our downtown? Nothing is what would have happened,” DeHart said.
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