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Kelowna  

Capri certainty demanded

Once burned, twice shy. That's the attitude Kelowna city council seemed to take Monday in deferring acceptance of a master plan for redevelopment of the 20-acre Capri Mall site.

The plan differed slightly, which concerned some councillors still smarting after not getting what they thought they were from the Central Green site.       

In an unprecedented, and unusual move, council not only deferred a decision on the master plan, but also gave approval for construction of the first of 14 residential buildings, a 22-storey tower, for the corner of Capri Street and Sutherland Avenue.

Council went back and forth on the merits of the revised master plan for the 20-acre site, a plan that was altered from one approved two-years ago.

Much of the issue surrounds use of the public park, and in particular, and NHL-size ice rink at the centre of the development.

Coun. Luke Stack said he was uncomfortable not knowing whether the rink would be controlled by the developer or the strata council.

"All the density we have supported here was because we were getting some public amenities, but I'm not comfortable at this point that it is a public amenity," said Stack.

"It sounds to me like it's a private amenity that they will let someone use from time to time."

Stack said the original plan had a more "inviting passageway" through the site. It showed how roads and bike paths went through the property and where the transit stops would be located.

"It looked more inviting to the public...now, I'm seeing more of a fortress type of mentality around what could be a private amenity."

Leo Mariotto, president of ICR Projects, the developer of the site, told council the master plan before them is just an evolution of the original. He said the intent is not to change any of the amenities promised two years ago.

He promised public access to the park and rink, saying the intent is for everyone to enjoy the rink, shop and go to a bar, if there is one.

"There's no question we can provide public access," he said.

As for timing, Mariotto said the plan is for the three towers along Capri Street to be built first, with the fourth and fifth towers along Sutherland Avenue to go next.

"The fourth tower would require the food store to relocate.

"Although I can't say the ice rink would start at that time, once the towers along Sutherland are built, it is logical the ice rink would then happen."

But, he said, that logic could change over five, 10 or 20 years.

Despite assurances nothing had changed, council wanted certainty. They also wanted answers to several questions which were not forthcoming to their satisfaction.

"I have no doubt the developer is coming to us in good faith, but the thing I have is that so many questions weren't answered, I can't, in good faith, go to the public and say I did my job," said Coun. Maxine DeHart.

"This is a huge thing for use...but I just think we need some better answers."

Mayor Colin Basran, one of three on council to vote against deferral, says he likes the new plan, but understood a majority on council want some clarity before moving forward.

"With all the drawings and all the modeling, council just wants to be sure that what's being brought forward is actually what gets built, or as close to it as possible," said Basran following the meeting.

But, we have to remember too that to build this site out is going to require a lot of time. We have to recognize there are a number of things that are going to change over time like market demand, like best practices, like trends, building materials and requirements.

"While there may be an expectation from the public that what's presented should be exactly what is going to be built, but I think what was found out today was it's merely aspirational to a degree and things will evolve over time."

The developer and staff will sit down to try and bring clarity to some of the concerns before returning to council.



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