Kelowna city council has thrown its support behind a bid by the Bennett family to have land it owns on Springfield and Copper Roads taken out of the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve so a multi-million dollar residential and commercial development can be built on it.
The Bennett’s McIntosh Properties say it is willing to put 21.4 hectares of land in Oyama into the ALR, spend $1.75 million on agricultural improvements to land throughout the Okanagan and pay for the relocation of 15,000 cubic metres of top soil from the Springfield Road property to help rehabilitate a former gravel pit in the city in return for Agricultural Land Commission allowing 9.5 hectares on Springfield and Cooper Roads out of the ALR.
The two properties are located across the road from the new Target store in Orchard Plaza Shopping Centre and the InVue residential highrise tower.
All but Coun. Mohini Singh supported the removal bid at Monday’s council meeting, with several councillors praising the plan.
Coun. Gerry Zimmerman described the lengths McIntosh Properties is wiling to go to get the land out of the ALR as “textbook,” in terms of agricultural impact mitigation efforts.
The development the company wants to build would include 500 rental apartments in clusters of four to six-storey buildings and 200,000-square-feet of commercial space.
The bid had the support of city staff.
MaYor Walter Gray said the also needs to be mindful of the need for more rental accommodation in the city in future years.
But, as was noted in a presentation by city manager of subdivision, agriculture and environment Todd Cashin, the plan also has its opponents.
A total of 18 letters of opposition and concern were received by the city after the proposal went to the city’s agricultural advisory committee in the spring. Many of the opponents live in the InVue building across the street.
But councillors like Andre Blanleil, said while the land may be viable for farming, it is hemmed in on three sides by urban development and the liklihood it would ever become a working farm is remote.
It is, however, bordered by a farm on the south side of the Cooper Road portion of the property.
To address that, the company is proposing a 24-metre buffer that would include a road and a raised berm that would have trees planned on top.
Council’s support is considered critical to the province’s Agricultural Land Commission considering an exemption from the ALR for the land.