Kelowna OCP update struggles with building heights

An attempt to get consensus on how future developments are shaped, while addressing the city’s upcoming needs, prompted city planners to craft an Official Community Plan with a more urban bent than in past years.

In the creating of what’s generally viewed as the road map to future development, planners focused on how they would meet a rising demand for housing, and it seemed the answer lay in multi-family developments.

“We will need just over 20,000 new housing units by 2030,” said Singe Bagh, the city’s policy and planning director.

“A change in demographics, and affordability constraints will increase demand for apartments and townhouses.”

The demand, by their estimates, will call for the development of 8,565 single family units and 11,919 multi-family units.

Around 50 per cent of new development and 80 per cent of new multiple family residential developments will be concentrated within urban-ish hubs within the city, such as Rutland, south Pandosy, midtown and the Landmark Towers area, north Glenmore and the downtown.

The issue of multi-family housing lends itself to discussions on high rises, which has been a thorn in the side of failed developments in the past, most notably the ill-fated CD-21 zone.

To get ahead of that debate, Bagh said planners took the bull by the horns and brought the question to the thousands of members of the public they consulted through open houses, online discussions and surveys.

Through those conversations, they learned that the matter is just as galvanizing today as it has been in the past.

“It’s an issue people seem to care deeply about,” said Bagh, who noted that while the OCP lays out maximums, it could be tweaked along the way as developers made varying proposals.

Meantime, a modicum of consensus was reached for city centres. Feedback garnered encouraged planners to set a  maximum 14-storey limit, with a potential 19 storeys with a variance permit in the downtown area.

Residents said South Pandosy could have a maximum eight-storey building in their neighbourhood, while Rutland could get 12-storey developments.

Midtown could sustain a 16-storey building and the Capri-Landmark area was allotted 12 storeys.

Coun. Andre Blanleil was concerned about the issue of building heights.

“There are a lot of good changes, but I have a problem in heights,” he said.

“In most cases we are down heights compared to what’s already been approved. As a fan of the CD 21 zone, I did like the heights.”

A public hearing will start in May.  For more information on the OCP, go to


Kelowna Capital News