West Kelowna city council will likely end up signing off on the construction of an enormous apartment complex, despite the fact that few of them have anything nice to say about it.
At its Feb. 28 regular meeting council was asked to approve a development permit for Highstreet Ventures’ Carrington Ridge apartment complex on Majoros Road.
The permit approves construction of three massive, four-storey apartment buildings and an additional “community amenity building.”
Many councillors are less than thrilled with the project.
Coun. Carol Zanon called it “disappointing, opportunistic and unimaginative,” while Coun. Bryden Winsby called it “terribly uninspired,” wondering how long it would take for it to end up as “the projects” of West Kelowna.
Other councillors expressed concerns the project is ugly, inconsiderate and a potential hotspot for crime.
Such strong opposition might seem like grounds to stop the project, but Nancy Henderson, the city’s director of development services, told council they have a responsibility to approve it even if they don’t personally like it.
Like all municipalities in the province West Kelowna has an Official Community Plan that lays out priorities for things like growth and development. The plan is a legally binding document and council is required to use it as a guideline for all of its decisions.
City staff believe the proposed project does meet West Kelowna’s OCP guidelines, meaining council is essentially required to approve it.
“Council is bound by the guidelines in the OCP, and if you were going to reject this application it would be because they didn’t meet the guidelines,” Henderson said.
That fact did not sit well with many councillors.
“So even though personally I find it completely unattractive and don’t think it suits our community and wouldn’t want it next to me that doesn’t give me reason as a councillor to not support this?” Coun. Rosalind Neis asked.
“Should council reject the application it should be based on not meeting the guidelines that are in the OCP,” Henderson replied.
Other councillors also expressed deep reservations about the form and character of the project.
Coun. Winsby said he understands council needs to “operate within the bounds of the regulations” but that “this particular project has stretched those bounds to the limit.”
Scott Butler is the president of Highstreet Ventures. He says the Carrington Ridge development will be a boon for West Kelowna, and expects that it will be received well by the community.
“We are obviously quite positive about what we do, and we try to create a community feel with our projects,” he said.
He pointed out that Carrington Ridge plans include a $30,000 voluntary donation to the local park, a “massive” investment in solar power, electric car charging stations and a car share program, as well as other amenities.
He said the buildings would be built with a “new, contemporary design,” and that similar projects have been well-received in other communities.
“This isn’t a low-end development by any stretch of the imagination,” he said, adding that people won’t notice a difference between this development and a condo complex.
Despite those points, council appears to retain its strong reservations about the project.
After the numerous objections of council, Feb. 28, Henderson agreed there were somewhere between three and six guidelines city staff could “discuss with the applicant,” and bring back to council.
With that promise, council voted to postpone a decision on the permits.
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