It’s going to cost Kelowna taxpayers about $32 million over the next 20 years, but mayor Colin Basran says it’s the “right thing to do.”
The mayor and Kelowna council threw their support yesterday behind a massive plan to revamp the Capri-Landmark neighbourhood.
The Capri-Landmark Urban Centre Plan aims to transform the area over the next two decades through a combination of road realignments, a host of new parks, utility and infrastructure upgrades, and other measures.
It’s part of a larger initiative designed to manage how the city grows; 50,000 new people are expected to move to Kelowna over the next two decades and the city wants to ensure much of that growth happens in urban centres.
A full 13 per cent of that growth (approximately 9,500 people) will happen in the Capri-Landmark neighbourhood, but the area has a huge infrastructure deficit and right now can’t support that much growth.
The area has also been a sore point with some in the city for what they see as less-than-ideal planning that has caused congestion and confusion.
As acting city manager Joe Creron pointed out, “this area has been developing ad hoc-ly, maybe not … the way it should be.”
However, Creron called the Capti-Landmark the plan a “vision” that will help correct that.
“It may take more than 20 years to realize that vision, but we’re putting in place all the little bits and pieces that will make this a vibrant community, not just a bunch of developments,” he said.
To make that vibrant community happen, city staff say Kelowna will have to spend $95,250,000.
More than half of that spending will go towards transportation costs—which will include sidewalks, road and intersection improvements and better access to the pedestrian overpass, but be dominated by a realignment of Sutherland Avenue.
Staff say the change to Sutherland is the “critical action” the area needs to remove a lot of the transportation constraints and open the area up to more development.
A significant amount of money would also be spent on parks and public spaces, including purchasing a small plot of land for millions of dollars to create a new park in the area.
Some of that money will be recovered through development cost charges but $32 million will come from the taxpayers.
As Coun. Mohini Singh pointed out, the total cost of the plan is initially somewhat staggering.
“It’s a lot of money we’re talking about. It’s a substantial amount of money,” she said.
However, Singh, like most of the rest of council, said saw the value in moving ahead with the ambitious plan.
Basran joked to city staff they were “almost victims of doing too good of work,” because they costed out this plan more thoroughly than anything in the past.
“We have not done this level of costing and detail in previous plans that have been unanimously approved by various councils in our time,” he said.
“I bet people would have been shocked if they saw what those potential things would cost, but at the end of the day they’re the right things to do for our community because it puts those projects in the queue,” Basran said.
“I think this is an easy plan to support.”
Picky about parks
The biggest point of contention in the plan was the money set aside for parks.
Coun. Maxine DeHart pointed out the city is already behind on the number of parks it should have relative to its population, and questioned why the parks in this particular area should take precedence.
“There’s all these parks the city can’t finish, and then we have a huge sum set aside for parks as part of this plan,” she said.
Coun. Brad Sieben echoed her sentiments and questioned whether spending potentially more than $10 million to acquire one plot of parkland in the Capri neighbourhood was the best use of taxpayer money.
Staff pointed out it’s important to have a “basic, core level of park space” in the area, and that the nearby Parkinson Recreation Centre contributed to that somewhat, but that the area will already be underserved with parkland to begin with.
Even after buying land to build a park, the Capri-Landmark plan still falls far short of the goals for parkland the city has set out for itself.
That was enough to satisfy almost all of council, which eventually voted to endorse the plan (Sieben was the lone vote against it).
The vote means staff will now move forward with consultation with landowners in the Capri Landmark area on the plan direction, proposed funding approach and the potential of exploring area funding tools.
Staff will complete final plan refinement and analysis to prepare the final plan report. Council consideration of the final plan in anticipated for later this year.
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