Council hosts Hiawatha hearing

City Council was packed to capacity Tuesday night for a public hearing into the new Hiawatha development proposed by Westcorp.

The development would include 19 buildings, ranging in height from 3 1/2 to 11 storeys, in what is being described as a mix of residential, tourist commercial and general commercial uses.

“I am pleased to stand before you this evening to represent our vision for this unique site,” said Gail Temple, Director of Development for Westcorp.

The proposal is not without controversy.

Many owners at the mobile home park are upset they are not being offered fair market value, renters are afraid they will not be able to find suitable accommodations elsewhere and neighbours worry that 900 new units in the area will create unsatisfactory traffic congestion.

The long night of statements, questions and concerns centred on an open mic format in which gallery members could line up and address the Council.

Michael Dillon expressed concern that traffic on the narrow Cook Rd. could become too congested.  He worries that the combination of Manteo, Playa del Sol and Hiawatha will increase the traffic load in his area beyond reasonable limits.

“Let’s not make [our] beaches like those of Miami or Brazil,” he said.

Rob Yewell, spoke on behalf of his mother, Peggy, an owner who has lived at Hiawatha Mobile Home Park for years.  Extensive renovations have, as he sees it, pushed the value of her home above the assessed price Westcorp is willing to pay.

“Total renovation costs for this project, were $60,000 in 1995,” said Rob.

“This expenditure represented a large portion of my folks’ life savings.”

He also alleged to have had a conversation with Gail Temple in which she stated that the tenants’ homes were “too old” and “not certifiable to be moved”.  He claimed that she told residents none of their homes were worth more than $10,000 and that “anything more than that would be generous on Westcorp’s part.”

"She said compensation will be based on only 10% of real market value plus $20,000 for moving," he said.

“The last letter sent to my mother’s home,” continued Yewell, “regarding [Westcorp’s] development or relocation plans, was on September 4, 2008.  We have had no official communication from them until this month, March, 2013.”

Gail Temple’s opening address disputed these claims.

“In an effort to be transparent and clear,” she said “we have provided information briefs to mobile home owners, have sent digital versions of our open house materials to strata councils and Residents Association for distribution to their members, and have made all of our submission documents available on our website.”

Although the majority of those assembled at City Hall objected to the proposal, there were supporters present as well.

Before moving his family to Kelowna two years ago, Shawn Thompson stayed in Hiawatha Park several times during vacations.

As much as he enjoys the lifestyle that comes with living in Kelowna, he is disappointed with the lack of housing options available and feels that the benefits such a development would bring to the community outweigh the temporary inconveniences.

“If Kelowna wants to continue to grow,” he said, “build industry and a place for young professionals, like this one, that appeal to the next generation.”

 “We have an opportunity to look to the future, embrace the spirit and current vibe that is South Pandosy, and create something for the future.”

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