Hotel too high

As a family that has lived & worked in Kelowna since 1969, we have seen growth that has transformed our city into a busy, fun filled city with something for everyone. Not all of the change is positive and unfortunately, continuing growth is also turning the city into a place where only the wealthy can afford to live and is fast beginning to look and feel like a mini Vancouver. This growth is also changing the very face of our lakefront that is the main attraction for not only visitors to our community but for everyone who lives and works here. One of those changes is the proposed development by Westcorp.

We have understood that the concept of  the community plan was to keep buildings low at the lakefront, stepping up the height of buildings as you move further from the lakefront. We understood this plan was in place was to ensure that the lakefront was the accessible focal point of our city and also because the water table is very high from the lakefront area as far back as Gordon Drive. This plan now seems to be something that developers are continually challenging with frequent requests for variances in height requirements. The reason for the requested variances on the Westcorp development is that the developer "needs" more stories and units in order to make the project viable and profitable.

Why is council continuing to approve these incredible variances from our community plan when the onus is, and should be, on the developer to do their due diligence and know the restrictions that are in place at the time they choose to purchase a property and make plans for developing it? It is not up to the city of Kelowna to change its OCP and grant variances just so that a developer can make a profit. Most people of this community assume the OCP was put in place to ensure that our city is a place where everyone can enjoy the beauty of the lake and maintain the close community feel that many residents hold dear and that visitors find attractive. In a newspaper article a few weeks ago (sorry readers, the paper has long gone into the recycling bin and I cannot provide quotable details)  the writer stated that Kelowna is what Vancouver used to be and why Kelowna is so appealing to those wanting to escape from the busy, traffic snarled, unaffordable city that Vancouver has become. 

As well as altering the buildings face of the downtown, taller buildings can also have an negative impact on the environment in the surrounding area. We enjoy riding our bikes or walking down the rail trail to downtown to enjoy a coffee or do a little shopping and we have noticed the change in sunshine reaching street level due to the higher buildings that are going up not to mention the change in wind patterns. Some streets have been turned into wind tunnels, this is especially noticeable along Ellis Street since the Interior Health building went up. It really makes one wonder what will happen when 33 stories go up at the end of Bernard? We wonder if any local studies have been done with regard to how taller buildings can affect sunlight, wind patterns in the downtown area? 

Although we do feel that the development and progress that has taken place over the past 30 years has many, many positive outcomes, we also feel that we must be ever vigilant in ensuring that Kelowna does not become another one of those urban areas where traffic is a daily challenge, where only the well-to-do can afford to live, where crime and homelessness rates climb and where where the price we pay for growth results is the loss of the very charm, beauty and sense of community that makes Kelowna so special.

Please, city council, do not allow this development to go forward just to appease a narrow group of people but consider how this will impact the face of Kelowna and all of its citizens for years to come.

Dennis & Brenda Carr

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