A Lake Country councillor harbours regret over the decisions made regarding the preservation of a wildlife habitat in the largest development in Lake Country’s history.
Coun. Penny Gambell was elected when the Lakestone development was already in its third reading, she said. While she was able to provide input on how the master plan was designed, she’s concerned about the lack of trees that will be left once 1,300 new housing units are constructed in Okanagan Centre.
“We have not believed it important enough as a council to make changes and staff have the argument, and they are looking at it from the perspective of paying for things for development, so they haven’t taken it as seriously in the past. I do not think they had any idea (we would see) the tree removal that we’ve seen,” she said.
“I think that is more than we expected, particularly in the Tyndall Road area.”
Lakestone’s masterplan was originally approved in 2012. The development spans nearly 500 acres of land and, once completed, will contain 1,365 units of mixed development including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments, and a short-term rental building. Plans also include tennis courts, park areas, a major regional trail network along Tyndall and Okanagan Centre Road as well as a marina. Currently, phase three of the project, the Benchlands, is being constructed along Tyndall Road.
According to the master plan, 52 per cent of the development will be retained as open space, however, this percentage also includes the trail network.
Gambell is also concerned with the number of family homes being constructed. In Lakestone, 588 units will be single-family homes, 697 units will be townhomes or duplexes and 80 units will be dedicated to the short term rental housing.
“You don’t see patches of trees left, whereas up on The Lakes, you do see patches of trees left. They staggered development in a different way. Here, they’ve gone overboard and part of that may be the fear of another fire,” she said. “We want to build resilient communities that do have some forest and land within them, in blocks that are big enough to be significant, to be something you can walk in an enjoy.”
She said the wildfire risk plays a role in not having as many trees close to homes, but “we have to strike a balance between the wildfire concern and the importance of trees, for climate change and the respiration, because they’re huge contributors to oxygen.”
While Gambell said she’s not against development, she is against the clear-cutting of trees.
“I was terrified that that would happen, and sure enough it did. I’m hoping by doing a tree retention bylaw we will not see this happening again. We have southwest Winfield, 400 acres, we’ve got trees there and we really need to start doing things differently, it’s time,” she said.
Gambell said that at a strategic session held between council a few weeks ago, the general consensus she felt from council is that they would like to densify areas like the Town Centre and the Woodsdale corridor.
“The idea for the future is to densify in those urban areas and keep those rural areas as rural as possible.”
Gambell said with the outlined Urban Containment Boundary, the district’s draft Official Community Plan (OCP) will be a factor in limiting urban sprawl and a new tree retention bylaw will ensure trees are preserved as part of the developments.
Mayor James Baker said he doesn’t share the same concerns as Gambell.
“We kind of inherited that Lakestone, a lot of the master plan was done prior to us coming on as council. We did get a chance to look at it and ask them to protect the sensitive areas and rock bluffs and we didn’t put a limit on square footage.”
“It certainly jams the shoreline (with larger houses), but that is always going to be the case with the shoreline and the price you pay for the property,” he said.
Baker said the district’s main assessment base is residential, and the district has been able to get a larger tax return on these homes, which then can provide services in the community.
“We can do things more with the assessments we have, and still have the amenities… it’s a trade-off of what you can do with residential assessment values and what you need to do to run the municipality,” Baker said.
James Moore, long range policy planning manager with Kelowna, said that the city is building differently than Lake Country with hillside development.
“We’re having a big conversation now through the (Official Community Plan) whether we do any more of this anymore, and I think the general direction from council is that this kind of growth isn’t going to be supported anymore,” he said.
Apart from what’s already being constructed, planners are focusing on densifying areas of Kelowna, replacing single-family homes with apartments and townhouses.
“If there’s one big push that would differentiate us from Lake Country, it would be our effort to shifting our growth pattern to areas we’ve already developed other than developing more of these far-flung hillsides,” Moore said.
He listed The Ponds as a relatively close comparison to Lakestone. The Ponds, Neighbourhood 3, a development in the Mission, was given the go-ahead in 2007 in Kelowna, roughly the same time Lake Country council first received the master plan for Lakestone. Housed on 440 hectares of land in the south Mission area, the plan outlines 1,200 units.
Parks that include natural areas were also outlined in the report. Moore said 33 per cent of the Neighbourhood 3 is open space.
District of Lake Country staff could not be reached for comment by press deadline.
Don Erdely, VP of development with Macdonald Development Corp. which overseas Lakestone, said the development offers different types of housing based on the market demand. Lot sizes for homes are a similar size to The Lakes development, around 1,400 to 1,800 square feet, he said. They must also follow design guidelines.
He said trees are only being removed where development is actually happening in Lakestone, and there’s a mix of topography with green space being created throughout.
With phase four of the project, a trail network within the open space will tentatively be completed by the end of April.