To the editor:
I am seriously disappointed in the four Kelowna city councillors who recently voted to increase building heights in the downtown to 26 storeys from 19, including variances, during council’s deliberations on the new Official Community Plan.
In doing so, Councilors Blanleil, Craig, James and Stack turned their backs on years of public input into the OCP that ultimately determined that holding the line on building heights was the most popular choice of city residents.
In adopting this position, these four councillors were completely unconcerned with public opinion. Instead, they kowtowed to the desire of the Urban Development Institute, the organization of local developers, for taller buildings and greater profits. And these councilors came up with some questionable reasoning to support their position.
In an attempt to save face after having approved the 26-storey Aquilini “24” highrise on Bernard Avenue two years ago, Blanleil and Stack argued that this project, having already been approved by council, had set the new standard for building heights in the downtown.
But they failed to point out that the Aquilini application was approved by stealth, there having been no newspaper advertising of the public hearing and with that item coming up for discussion past midnight after the few members of the public in attendance had already gone home. That sort of practice carries with it no political legitimacy whatsoever.
Councillors Craig and James’ reasons for supporting a 26-storey height limitation for the downtown were no more convincing. Craig argued in favour of mixed-use development in the downtown and, presumably, having mixed uses was do-able at 26 storeys, while not at 19.
James backed 26 storeys because it represented “smart growth.” In that case, 50 storeys should be even smarter and 100 storeys outright brilliant. That’s the kind of logical trap one sets for oneself when presuming that bigger is always better.
I believe the only just reaction of Kelowna voters to the contempt these four have shown the public by disregarding their input into the OCP on the subject of building heights in the downtown is to deny them re-election in this fall’s civic election.