Waters: Kelowna council’s so called ‘rubber stamp’ runs out of ink

Kelowna council says no to not one, but two, residential developments at one meeting

For a city council recently accused of making decisions to “help its developer friends,” Kelowna council sure put the lie to that notion Monday.

During its regular weekly meeting, it killed not one, but two residential development proposals for the city, one of which would have added 1,000 homes of various types in what was described by its developer as a planned “green” community in north Glenmore, just south of the city’s dump.

Debate over the Diamond Mountain development went on for nearly four hours, with city staff presenting one of its strongest—and longest—opposition presentations to council in recent memory. It was clear, city staff really didn’t want to see homes built on that property.

The staff presentation focused on the fear that future residents would complain about the Glenmore Landfill and that could cost Kelowna taxpayers millions, especially if the complaints prompted an early closure of the city’s dump.

But in the end, despite council supporting the staff recommendation not to approve an area structure plan for the project, there will be houses built on the property—just not as many as originally envisioned.

Instead of the 1,000 that Troika Developments wanted, only 17 will be built because the property is already zoned to allow that. They will be large, big-buck homes on 10-acre lots, an enclave described by Troika CEO Renee Wasylyk during her presentation as “a millionaire’s Mecca.”

So the question now is, will those rich folks do what the city feared the poorer people would have done and complain about the nearby dump once they move in? And if they do, will they have the bucks to push their complaints to the top of the heap to gain provincial attention?

After all, despite their money, rich folks don’t like living in smelly neighbourhoods any more than $50,000 a year folks who live in in 2,000-square-foot ranchers do.

Wasylyk said Monday she can sleep at night building the mini-estates with mega homes, knowing she argued for a greener alternative instead. Obviously, the majority on council who voted to kill her plan feel they can too, having saved taxpayers from future financial headaches associated with complaints about the city’s landfill—for now.

During the lengthy discussion on Diamond Mountain, city engineer Kevin Van Vliet was quick to say the dump is well-run and meets all provincial standards. That may be true, but if its “nuisances” are bad enough to preclude homes from being built nearby, is that good enough? Of course it’s hard to run an operation that handles the city’s waste and not have a smell emanate.

And what does it say to other operations and neighbourhoods in the area that are affected by the smell, dust and noise from the dump? Places like UBC Okanagan, the airport and the residential developments of Wilden and Quail Ridge. Will they be allowed to expand?

For good measure on Monday council also nixed a plan to build 19 rental units in two long buildings on Nickel Road, saying they didn’t like the utilitarian look of the buildings.

The balance sheet is likely not equal in terms of approvals versus rejections when it comes to development with this council. But it shouldn’t be. Saying no to development in a growing city is a recipe for disaster. It needs to say yes to the right development.

As to what that is, well, that’s for the politicians and the public to decide. One at the council table and the other at the ballot box.

Alistair Waters is the assistant editor of the Capital News

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