Lake Country council is troubled by the potential loss of trees caused by a proposed 40-lot development on a 7.85-acre wooded land parcel in Okanagan Centre. (Photo illustration): Contributed

Trees versus development in Lake Country

Council ponders likely loss of forest in 40-lot housing proposal

Protecting the rural residential appeal of Lake Country has given district council pause to slow down the approval process for a 40-lot subdivision.

Tree retention on the 3.2 hectare (7.85-acre) site, bordered by Okanagan Centre Road West and McCoubrey Road, and the lot allotment for the development were key concerns expressed by the councillors at its council meeting Tuesday night.

“A tree retention policy is something council is working on developing and it’s important, but in this case I can’t see how one tree would be saved in order to allow for 40 lots. The land will have to be reshaped completely to fit the subdivision conceptual design as it currently looks,” said Coun. Blair Ireland.

“We are told repeatedly that the public wants to see rural residential in our community and I’m not seeing that here. Higher density is supposed to be focused more in the core area and not out in the sticks.”

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Ireland was echoing similar sentiments expressed by Coun. Bill Scarrow, who said the two housing developments around the proposed site are a microcosm of how to protect and not protect the existing vegetation on a subdivision site.

“The first phase of that area being developed was done with larger lots, and you see the trees retained in large numbers, and the second phase saw it stripped bare,” Scarrow said.

“The differences are really astronomical, seeing one area with old tree growth and another stripped bare. The difference is striking.”

Scarrow said while the zoning change, from rural residential to a combination of single-family housing and public park and open space, falls in line with the property designation under the Official Community Plan, he suggested that council needs another zoning category to offer more flexibility on lot size options.

Staff told council such a zoning could be created, but the application to this particular development might raise concerns about the financial impact on the developer, Canada West Reality in Kelowna, and the need to amend the OCP.

Greg Buchholz, Lake Country director of infrastructure services, also cited the need to find a balance between environmental impact concerns and the cost of infrastructure services.

“You have to be careful with the densification argument because larger lots raise the issue of infrastructure costs increasing and is that financially sustainable,” Buchholz said.

“There are competing interests to be considered here. It is a balancing act of priorities.”

Council also had queries about the design of the subdivision, but Mark Koch, director of community services, said at the rezoning stage is not when specific subdivision planning issues get addressed.

“There is a process for that at the subdivision planning stage when council can have input on those issues and the developer will have a more detailed proposal for council to consider,” Koch said.

Council agreed that tree retention, a traffic analysis impact and lot size options would be asked by the public at the public hearing stage if the rezoning is given initial first and second reading, so those questions should be addressed prior to the public input stage.

So council opted unanimously to pass first reading on the rezoning application, and hold back on second reading until those issues are addressed more specifically by the developer.

“We know the public is going to be asking about these issues so let’s get some answers in advance of the public hearing for public consideration,” said Coun. Penny Gambell.