Kelowna’s year in review – December 2019

A look back at the biggest stories of the year in December

More tweaks to planned

Westcorp Hotel

Kelowna’s long-awaited lakefront hotel, planned for the foot of Queensway adjacent to Kerry Park, will be slightly shorter than originally planned, have more hotel rooms and condominiums and see an increase to both the mount of parking included and the gross floor space.

But the date for the start of construction of the oft-delayed 33-storey hotel, to be built by Alberta-based developer Westcorp and operated by an as-of-yet unknown operator, is still not known.

In a news release, Westcorp said the latest tweaks to the hotel’s plan call for the number of hotel rooms to increase to 185 from 174, the number of condominiums to jump to between 50 and 60 and the number of parking stalls to increase to 331, up from the original 295.

West Kelowna one step closer to getting new school

The Central Okanagan School District won an appeal against the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to build a new school in West Kelowna, with one exception.

The win means, the school district can now complete a project development report (PDR) to see how feasible it is to build a secondary school on a 14-hectare site along Webber Road.

If the PDR finds it is feasible to build the school, funding would be allocated by the provincial government out of its budget to proceed with the project.

If approved, construction for the school would likely begin in 2021 and be adjacent Webber Road Community Centre.

North end Kelowna residents petition city over homeless camp relocation

The ramifications of the City of Kelowna’s decision to move the Leon Avenue homeless camp to Kelowna’s north end sparked a petition from residents in the area.

During a meeting, residents acknowledged the complexity of the issue, however they wanted the city to find a better place for people experiencing homelessness to live.

West Kelowna residents

oppose new fire hall

West Kelowna residents got an opportunity to express their concerns about the relocation of a fire station during a private meeting in early December.

The meeting, which was attended by more than 30 people, was organized by the City of West Kelowna to talk about a controversial decision to relocate the Olalla Road fire station to Lakeview Heights.

Several residents voiced their concern about the additional traffic and noise that would be created in their residential neighbourhood.

According to the city, the fire station on Olalla Road needs to be moved to Lakeview Heights because it has passed its life expectancy and is unable to accommodate the needs of the community of Westbank First Nation.

If approved, it will be built on two parcels of land at 2509 and 2515 Harmon Road.

Detailed design of the new fire station is expected to begin in 2020, but a timeline for its construction has not yet been determined.

Kelowna to open temporary housing to help homeless

Warm indoor shelter will soon be available for those sheltering outside.

BC Housing, the John Howard Society of Okanagan and Kootenay and the City of Kelowna have partnered together to provide 40 beds at a city-owned property.

The site will be operated by the John Howard Society and funded by the provincial government.

The building, located at 555 Fuller Avenue, will temporarily house 40 people who already have beds at Cornerstone and the Kelowna Gospel Mission to free up space at those two shelters for those who are currently out on the streets or camping at Recreation Avenue.

The temporary housing will be available until Mar. 31.

After that, those living at 555 Fuller Avenue will then be moved into the McIntosh Road Supportive Housing so the building can be demolished to make way for affordable housing.

City council approves

temporary permit

for West Kelowna

shelter

West Kelowna city councillors voted in favour to approve a temporary use permit for a winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness on Tuesday.

Located at 1160 Stevens Rd., the temporary shelter will only be allowed to operate until April 30 next year.

BC Housing and the City of West Kelowna will work together to ensure security needs are addressed at the site and that both parties find alternative sites for future shelters in the city.

Other rules outlined in the permit include that the site will be monitored 24/7 and guests visiting and leaving the site will be monitored through a database.

The shelter will be run by the West Kelowna Shelter Society and will be able to accommodate up to 40 people. Showers, toilets, storage and amenity space will be provided for residents.

An online petition against the shelter’s location received over 800 signatures.

Iconic tattoo artist Bethany Saura mourned by Kelowna resident

Kelowna residents mourned the loss of an iconic tattoo artist in early December.

The Ink Parlour in Kelowna announced Monday that Bethany Saura — one of their founders — died suddenly last Thursday at the age of 27.

“She was an amazing artist, always full of joy and laughter who truly loved each and every one of her clients,” said the Ink Parlour on Facebook.

According to the parlour’s website, Saura grew up in the Okanagan and picked up a tattoo machine for the first time at 20 years old.

Last October, she went into business with Candice Browne to design, organize and help build The Ink Parlour.

After the announcement, condolences and tributes poured in from those on social media to offer their support for the families and friends impacted.

Overdose deaths in

Kelowna see

decline for 2019

Kelowna has had the highest number of illicit drug overdoses across the Okanagan so for this year, however, the number of fatal overdoses was down by nearly 50 per cent compared to last year.

According to data from the BC Coroners Service, 27 people died from an overdose in Kelowna between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, down from 2018’s total of 55 deaths for the same period of time.

The number of deaths in Kelowna has been steadily decreasing since the overdose crisis in 2017 when the city recorded 73 fatalities.

Temporary wet housing

to open in downtown

A temporary wet housing shelter will soon open in downtown Kelowna to help those who are living on the streets.

The new shelter will be located at 1265 Ellis St., near BNA Brewing Co., and is expected to open its doors in late December or early January.

The shelter will initially open with 20 beds with the possibility of expanding to 40 beds if needed.

Only people who are over 19 years of age will be allowed to stay at the shelter, which will be operated by a volunteer-based group called the Welcome Inn in partnership with BC Housing.

The organization hopes to keep the shelter open 24/7, but depending on staff availability the shelter may initially open only at night.

BC Housing confirmed there will be a designated area that will allow drug use, which will be monitored by staff.

“Due to the significant number of people in Kelowna who are experiencing homelessness and living outside, existing shelters are at or near capacity on a nightly basis,” stated a press release from the ministry of municipal affairs and housing.

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