After eight years of work and more than 20 years of vision, Kelowna city council dashed the dreams of a developer hoping to build a suburban subdivision in Kelowna’s Upper Mission area.
Proposed by Melcor and Canadian Horizons, Thomson Flats would’ve covered 255 hectares at the southern boundary of the city, between Chute Lake Road to the west and Bellevue Creek to the east. While the developer agreed to build only 680 homes, the subdivision was originally planned to house 1,200 new residences, which is the number staff used through most of its presentation. The idea of a new subdivision in the area has been toyed with since the 1990s.
Council sat through nearly four hours of presentations, questions and deliberations on the project, Monday afternoon (March 1), eventually siding with city staff’s recommendation of non-support. While those conversations touched on finance, city policy, environment and several other aspects, the most significant reason the proposal was denied was the significant traffic that the car-dependent neighbourhood would create.
To remedy that, the developer would have constructed an extension of the to-be-built South Perimeter Road. But staff found that extension would mostly benefit Thomson Flats residents, with little impact on the rest of the Upper Mission.
Downstream, the city would incur more infrastructure costs due to the increased traffic demand, staff suggested. Citing the Casorso Bridge’s twinning, staff said the increased flow could hike the cost to more than $20 million from the current $12-million estimate.
While Melcor representatives argued development cost charges would offset some of those losses, staff said the neighbourhood’s long-term upkeep would result in further infrastructure deficits.
Council ultimately felt it needed to give its new Official Community Plan, which focuses on growth in urban centres rather than suburbs, a chance. Around 1,100 single-family lots are still on the way to other Upper Mission areas. Staff estimates there is around 10 years’ worth of new stock in the area. And if those fill up quicker than anticipated, the city has room to adjust, according to Mayor Colin Basran.
The proposal was denied with a 7-2 vote in favour of staff’s recommendation. Councillors Brad Sieben and Mohini Singh both wanted more information before voting to nix the project entirely.
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