UBCO tower to referendum?

Re: Highrises too close to water (Castanet, July 25)

On July 26, City of Kelowna council voted 7-1 in favour of allowing UBCO and UBC Properties Trust to build its 46-storey “megatower” at 550 Doyle Avenue.

The lone dissenting vote came from Coun. Charlie Hodge, who expressed concerns about the tower's height and the additional traffic it will generate in the downtown core.

Coun. Luke Stack remarked: “We took a bit of a tongue lashing tonight. But that’s how our city works and how democracy functions.”

How was it democracy when only eight people got to decide whether a precedent-setting 46-storey tower can be built in the downtown core?

Instead, council could have pressed the pause button and agreed to an assent vote (formerly known as a referendum), held in conjunction with the Oct. 15 municipal election. A possible question could be: "Are you in favour of the UBCO Tower at 550 Doyle Avenue to be built to a height of 46 storeys?"

Now that would be democracy in action.

The city's Policy 4.4.3 states buildings can be taller than the heights in the 2040 Official Community Plan if they bring “significant benefits” to the city. “Significant benefits” is just a political smokescreen for a policy that allows city planners to create new Comprehensive Development zones ad infinitum, so councillors can approve the height of any building they want.

The planner-magicians created the CD28 zone out of thin air—“Presto!”—which allowed the UBCO tower to go to 46 storeys.

Professor Lesley Cormack is UBCO's principal and deputy vice-chancellor. In her introductory remarks to city council, Cormack said, in part: "...we actually now have a waitlist of 1,300 students waiting for on-campus student housing.... I mentioned we opened two new student residences in the last few years but they're a drop in the bucket compared to our short- and long-term needs. On our main campus, with our proximity to the airport, we're very restricted in height and therefore the density of what we can build."

Last May, UBCO’s new Skeena residence officially received Passive House certification, a stringent set of efficient design and construction standards, making it the first student residence in Canada to receive that status.

The residence is six storeys and houses 220 students. If UBCO builds six more identical residences, it would house an additional 1,320 students, as each storey houses an average of 37 students. Four 10-storey residences of this type could house close to 1,500 students.

Nav Canada is the privately run, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation system. It is responsible for the safe flow of air traffic in Canadian airspace.

At the hearing, Hodge asked Cormack why UBCO did not consider building the tower on the campus by the airport. Cormack said Nav Can would not allow it to do that.

"Sorry?" Said Hodge.

"Nav Can will not allow us to do that,” said Cormack. “We are very very limited in the height of our buildings on our main campus and they are as high as they can be because of the planes taking off across the (highway).”

"That's a really good answer,” replied Hodge.

The only way Nav Canada can determine if any proposed structure has any impacts on the air navigation system is through the Land Use Assessment process. During the assessments, Nav Canada ensures the physical structure doesn’t impact any of its services (instrument procedures, line-of-sights, interference to their navigational aids, etc).

Nav Canada doesn't have any predetermined height restrictions, as everything is assessed on a case-by-case basis. It has received four submissions in the last two years within two kilometres of UBCO, but none at UBCO, and none for a 46-storey building.

David Buckna, Kelowna

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