Kelowna's plan to move away from suburban development will get first test Monday

Battle over Thomson Flats

A massive subdivision proposed for Kelowna's Upper Mission is revealing a conflict between the city's current Official Community Plan and a major shift away from suburban growth.

Thomson Flats in a 680-home development that has been in the planning stages for more than seven years and has been envisioned as part of the overall development of Southwest Kelowna for nearly three decades.

City planning staff are recommending council reject Melcor Lakeside's area structure plan suggesting, among other reasons, it no longer meshes with the city's shift in policy away from suburban and hillside development and toward more urban and infill development.

Staff indicate the development will add to vehicle congestion to the Upper Mission area, trigger higher infrastructure costs, while likely having little positive affect on housing affordability.

"Despite the applicant's best efforts, staff have concluded through technical analysis and policy review that the proposal’s costs and impacts outweigh its benefits," staff stated.

"The opportunity cost of this proposal is simply too high."

Andrew Bruce, a former city planner who is consulting on the project, believes they have shown the project is feasible from an infrastructure and transportation perspective.

"Technically, I think we have ticked off all the boxes," Bruce told Castanet News.

"The problem is, during this time frame, the city has gotten into the Imagine Kelowna process which is building up for their next OCP. They have had this philosophical shift, or reckoning, that suburban development is bad."

Bruce says when they started the process, city policy made room for the Thomson Flats development.

"The problem with this process taking so long is that the landscape has kind of changed now. What we are trying to get done on Monday, is for council to consider this under the main guiding document that we started with, which is the current OCP. We think it fits, we think it's infill of that broader Southwest Mission sector plan."

In terms of traffic, Bruce says three traffic impact assessment were carried out which he says showed a number of failures of the road network if Thomson Flats doesn't go ahead.

"With Thomson Flats, there were actually some relief options out there because it connects the South Perimeter Road from Kettle Valley all the way across," he said.

"We don't think the one part of South Perimeter Road they are planning will be as effective as doing the whole road."

He says the road, plus much of the infrastructure, will be built by the development. It will then be turned over to the city, which will be responsible for maintenance and long-term life-cycle costs.

"It was always contemplated (Thomson Flats) would get developed, that there would be the South Perimeter Road through it, so we feel this is completing that Southwest Mission sector in terms of neighbourhood planning, infrastructure delivery, housing options and all those things."

Should council approve the plan, Bruce says it will still be three or four years before construction can begin.

If they don't, he says it's likely over, because part of the recommendation also includes removing the property from the city's permanent growth boundary, which becomes a larger, and more difficult policy issue in the future.

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