At least seven Kelowna residents voiced their opposition to a bylaw that passed second and third reading last night by Kelowna city council that would advance a heritage development project for the Murchison House property at 1781 Abbott St.
If adopted, the bylaw would mean that Davara Holdings — a local property development property — would be just one permit away from digging up the 1937 heritage house and reconfiguring the structure closer to Abbott Street and Riverside Street.
The plan would be to then move a commercial business into the newly reconfigured house and have a new duplex be built for perspective residents at the back of the property where the heritage house once stood.
During the public hearing on Tuesday night, Abbott Street resident Susan Ames said the poor conditions of the property described by city representatives weren’t true.
“Right from the start, the city planning department gave their support for this project, because they said the house was in disrepair and flooded,” Ames said.
“I did a tour of the house, and low and behold the house is not run down or flooded. It’s a well maintained three-bedroom house with a back porch and a front yard.
”The base is dry, and it’s very livable. The residents told me they’d like to have stayed if they could.”
During the discussions, many local residents said the house had been restored to good condition by the previous owners six years ago.
Landscaping and flood mitigation work were some things local residents said the original owner worked on to improve the conditions in the house.
Bob Hayes, a Glenmore Resident and member of the Kelowna Historical Society, said relocating the house to the front of the property would alter the shape of the neighborhood dramatically.
“My concern is if the house was moved forward, it would alter the streetscape dramatically. This house would stick out, way out past the other,” he said.
“The house just wouldn’t fit.”
Brett Hobbs, another Abbott Street resident, also said he did not support the project.
“I moved to this neighborhood partly because it was a heritage area. This move would start to invite commercial businesses into a residential and heritage area,” he said.
“It would also increase traffic flows, and we’re not going to know how that’s going to affect the neighbourhood with children playing.”
While traffic was one concern from residents, the developers signalled there would be five parking stalls created on-site at the back of the property for the business owners and local residents.
Despite the opposition from local residents, at least two councillors suggested that more eyes in the neighbourhood from the business owners could help to reduce local crime during daylight hours.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said he also supported the project given the contractors already have a reputable background for completing heritage construction projects in Kelowna.
With the redevelopment approval, the builders would then work on obtaining a building permit for the proposed development.
Kelowna city planner Terry Barton has said construction at the property could start as soon as next spring.