New plan pleases council

New drawings and a better explanation swayed much of city council to say yes to a new development on Kelowna's Central Green project.

A decision on the five-storey, 108-unit development on the site at the corner of Richter Street and Harvey Avenue was deferred last month because council was disappointed in the overall height for buildings on the former Kelowna Secondary site.

The site's master plan allows for buildings up to 12 storeys, however, there was never a minimum height determined. All buildings, both rental and for sale are under six storeys tall.

However, council believed it was going against the public process, which identified height as an objective.

"The issue revolves around two parties (Al Stober Construction and Mission Group Homes), and obviously the two parties are required and needed to come together to create something no one party could achieve unto itself," said planner Terry Barton.

"There are compromises that, unfortunately, need to be made along the line. And, while (height) was certainly the intent ... he developer is coming forward and saying a mid-rise building is more economical for them in order to achieve some other objectives."

Barton said height is the only objective not being met on the site.

"In a comprehensive review of the site, there are about five or six key objectives that are being met."

Those include all buildings being LEED certified, construction of Rowcliffe Park, 15 per cent affordable housing and a pedestrian focused development.

While height will not be realized, Barton says the envisioned density will.  He says the latest development will bring it to 534 units on the site, leaving about 180 in the final building to reach the maximum desired density of 714.

"Sorry I started this," said Coun. Gail Given, who asked the original decision be deferred weeks ago.

"From my perspective, my great fear is when you take tower form, cut it in half and put some on the ground...you do lose that open space. In this particular case, we have adjusted the layout...which enables us to have the public realm back."

Coun. Luke Stack, who was absent during the initial discussion, said he believes the city is achieving its objectives for the site.

"The key things for me is have we protected the public realm, the public plazas, connectivity to the park and also achieved the density of residential housing in downtown Kelowna," said Stack.

"When I look at this, I think we have achieved all of those."

Not everyone was swayed by what they heard and saw.

"I am disappointed in this particular part of this project because of the lack of height. I really did feel we were going to have a bit of diversity in the overall project which we do not have now," said Coun. Charlie Hodge in voting against the development.

"Today, I don't feel great. At the end of the day, I do not feel Central Green is what Central Green was envisioned to be."

"I like the fact we keep our expectations high sometimes," added Coun. Ryan Donn, also a no on the plan.

"Sometimes we do fall short, and I think this development permit falls a little bit short."

Mayor Colin Basran, who also missed the previous discussion, said he believed at one time the community wasn't getting what it bought into.

However, he says the original vision the city fell in love with wasn't feasible.

"There was a reason why the property sat vacant for as long as it did. It wasn't feasible," said Basran.

"I really do believe we have lived up to that public consultation because every objective was met. The question we have to ask ourselves is what are we losing without the height. The answer is nothing."

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