Industrial land more important than golf, votes Kelowna council

Golf loses to warehouses

Kelowna city councillors acknowledged the city needs parks and recreational space.

They also agreed industrial land is growing scarce, especially closer to the heart of the city.

What council couldn't agree on was how the two needs could co-exist in the case of Kelowna Springs Golf Course.

The motion brought forward by Coun. Luke Stack return the future land use designation of the golf course to private recreational, from industrial, in the 2040 Official Community Plan (OCP) went down to defeat Monday.

With Coun. Brad Sieben recusing himself from the discussion because he provides insurance services for the current owner, the remaining councillors were split 4-4, meaning the motion went down to defeat.

"We have a choice before us today regarding Kelowna Springs, we can choose to save it, or pave it. I for one will choose to save it," said Stack at the end of a long, impassioned plea to his fellow councillors.

Stack called on council and city staff to explore other options for industrial lands such as space remaining at the Airport Industrial Park, Jim Bailey Industrial Park, or what he called underutilized industrial areas in downtown, midtown and up and down the highway in Kelowna.

"The city owns 182 acres of land adjacent to the Kelowna landfill. Could some of this property be repurposed for light industrial or warehouses?" Stack asked. "I don't know, we should explore it."

"A professional commercial realty group was quoted last year as saying in their estimation there is 280 acres of underutilized industrial land in the city."

Stack had the support of colleagues Charlie Hodge, Maxine Dehart and Mohini Singh. He even had the support of mayoralty candidate Tom Dyas, who launched a petition on the subject over the weekend.

“With over 500 people signing a petition launched just this weekend asking city council to reverse their original decision to jeopardize the future of these lands and this wetland, voters have clearly demonstrated that council is on the wrong side of the public on this issue,” Dyas said in a statement prior to the outcome.

However, Stack was not able to sway enough of his fellow councillors to join him.

Coun. Ryan Donn said you can't put industrial uses just anywhere, while echoing others who indicated a lot of industrial lands are at the edge of the city, away from where people lived.

Those opposed also suggested industrial operations provide good paying jobs to people who are finding it increasingly less affordable to live in the city.

Coun. Gail Given also said there is a perception changing the future land use would forever protect the golf course.

"I don't think anything could be further from the truth," said Given.

"The truth of the matter is this would remain a golf course if the economics and the land values deemed that it is viable as a golf course.

"Land economics in Kelowna really drive a lot of things. It's why we don't have water slides in the middle of town anymore, or drive-in theatres or even a campground within our city because land economics don't make them viable anymore."

Council was also reminded it was the owners of Kelowna Springs who approached city staff about a potential land use change when the 2040 OCP as being developed, saying they couldn't guaranteed the future of the golf course through the life of the OCP.

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