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Kelowna  

Council likes civic plan

City council had rave reviews for the new, long-term vision for an area of downtown Kelowna known as the civic precinct.

For the most part.

The civic precinct is an area that borders Queensway to the south, Clement to the north, Ellis to the east and Okanagan Lake to the west.

A plan has been formed to revitalize and redesign the area. The final iteration of that plan was presented to council Monday.

Coun. Brad Sieben wasn't prepared to vote yes to have the plan move forward, specifically because of the RCMP site.

"I like the plan, but it's the RCMP site, I feel we're being rushed to do something with it," said Sieben.

"I look at the Community Theatre site and, if you look at both sites, and turn over each rock and say, wow, what can you do if you combine them, I just don't know if we've done that exhaustively. I appreciate the comments that we have the flexibility to do that, but we're kind of playing catch up at that point. I don't know what the answer is, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to endorse it."

Coun. Charlie Hodge also voted against because he felt he needed more time to digest the plan's contents.

"My comments are in no way, shape or form, reflective of the job staff have done. For me, surprise, surprise, it's all about timing," said Hodge.

"I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm in no hurry to make mistakes because I feel pushed into something. While I think this report is probably phenomenal and we're probably going to go with, perhaps all of it ... I haven't had a chance to digest all 200 pages."

Hodge said he isn't comfortable going ahead and would like the presentation deferred a few weeks.

He was also concerned that two of his fellow councillors, Gail Given and Tracy Gray, were absent from the meeting, and felt they would like to have some input as well.

Hodge and Sieben were the only dissenters.

Coun. Luke Stack led those on council ready to endorse the plan.

"This isn't the first time I've seen it. Yes, there were a lot of pages in there, but that's because it's been building and building and building for the last year," said Stack

"Everything in this plan has been pretty much reviewed by council already and endorsed as a direction to move forward."

He said the spine of the plan, which connects Clement all the way to Queensway, is spectacular.

Stack believes it will be a resource to attract people and endless events to the area.

He was also pleased to see flexibility with civic uses within the plan.

"Things like the future use of Memorial Arena, what will go there, we're not certain, but we are certain it will be something that supports the civic plan.

"And the RCMP site, which is probably the first action to come out of this, I'm reassured will be a lease. It gives us the best of both worlds. The city will get resources to move the plan forward because, clearly, we don't have the money to fund a massive project that's envisioned here."

The overall plan, as has been discussed numerous times, is broken into two phases, a short- and long-term  vision.

The short-term vision is a five- to 10-year plan, while the long-term is 10 to 25 years out.

The short-term plan includes redevelopment of the RCMP building with a six- to 13-storey mixed-use development, a refresh of the Bennett Plaza, the next phase of the art walk from Smith to Doyle avenues, and an enhanced pedestrian environment along Doyle Avenue.

The long-term plan, according to planner Danielle Noble-Brandt, includes significant "bold moves."

These include redevelopment of the Kelowna Community Theatre site as a future Performing Arts Centre, a Civic Plaza, infill along Cawston Avenue to include mixed-use development on the Prospera Place parking lot, redevelopment of the Memorial Arena site for a future civic use and consolidation of the museum facilities.

She said that could happen on either the Memorial Arena or parking lot site.

She said once the build-out occurs, it is anticipated to include up to 230 affordable housing units, up to 550 other housing units, 75,000 square feet of commercial space and 5.5 hectares of land for future civic use.

Council voted 5-2 to endorse the vision of the plan and allow staff to move forward with the required Zoning Bylaw and Official Community Plan Bylaw amendments.

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