After years of looking, Costco’s Kelowna warehouse store has found a new home.
In a 7-2 vote Tuesday night, city council approved an application by the big box retailer to rezone property at Baron and Leckie roads for the new store.
The vote came after a half dozen residents in the area addressed council with concerns, most centred around traffic issues and land use.
And while council raised number of questions concerning different traffic issues, most said they were satisfied with the answers from city planner Ryan Smith and Costco’s traffic engineer, Avi Thiessen.
In order to obtain a positive recommendation, Costco had already agreed to spend about $2.5 million on several traffic improvements around the new site.
Number one of that list, according to Thiessen, are upgrades to Leckie Road. Those include upgrading to two full lanes in both directions, with a turning lane in the middle, essentially giving it five lanes as opposed to the current four.
Other improvements in the area include:
- Full signal at Parkview Crescent and associated pedestrian crosswalks;
- Double left proposed from Springfield onto Leckie;
- Full signal proposed at Underhill and Baron Road and associated crosswalks;
- Reconfiguring the lanes at Baron and Dilworth, and the addition of a northbound right turn lane heading north onto Baron; and
- Flashing pedestrian crossing at Baron and Durnin roads.
“These proposed road network improvements came about after a year and an half of study and design analysis between Costco, the City of Kelowna and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation,” Thiessen told council.
Those improvements are required to be made before the new store can open, which is expected to be sometime this fall.
Coun. Brad Sieben said he did have concerns about how Costco would affect that portion of Leckie Road specifically, whether it would become total gridlock, or if improvements would allow it work the same or better than it is now.
“I do always have apprehensions, but I am satisfied at the answers provided by the traffic engineer that the improvements will be significant, and will allow for better access and better planning for the future for that road system,” Sieben said.
Coun. Gail Given, addressing concerns about sustainability, said she believed this was an ideal location for the retailer when dealing with that concern.
“From my perspective, keeping traffic generating facilities like Costco in town centres actually reduces traffic. Placing them out in our fringes actually induces traffic out of town and will actually increase traffic,” she said.
“From a sustainability perspective, it’s the right location.”
Councillors Charlie Hodge and Loyal Wooldridge were the lone dissenters on council. Both believe this was not the right location.
“This is not the best use of this land,” Hodge said. “Good plan, wrong location.”
“I guess I’m torn, because I see this as a distribution centre for goods for local business and an employment hub obviously for our residents,” Wooldridge said. “But, conversely I’m also in conflict because, looking 30 years out, I am thinking: Is this the best land use? We are continually asking our residents to live in more compact forms, we’re continually asking them to live in smaller square footages.
“When we are hearing other retailers are moving away from at-grade parking … it creates a lot of conflict for me, so from the bottom of my heart, I can’t support this going forward.”
The new retail store will be 25% larger than the current store, with 167,000 square feet and 793 parking stalls.
The proposed gas bar will be located on an adjacent piece of property, which Smith says is already zoned for such a use.
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