Opposed to more towers

Re. Towers on aren parking lot (Castanet, Sept. 20)

On Sept. 20, we found out the absurd idea of building three (residential) towers of 13, 22 and 26 storeys, with 457 units, in place of Prospera Place’s (existing) parking lot is “again alive and well.”

The fact the GSl Group and Kelowna’s planning department have been in discussions since April is a very bad news and should be a wake call for all residents concerned by the way the planning department and city council are respectively recommending and approving tower after tower in the downtown core.

From past experience with other projects, it is very clear it is city planners more than the developers pushing for a high concentration of oversized towers downtown. It is also very evident that no matter what the public has to say during public hearings, those projects—always strongly recommended by the planning department—are systematically, 95% of the time, approved by the city council. That makes the entire public hearing process a masquerade and a total waste of time.

If those three towers are approved, it will be in addition to the following:

• In September 2022, the city re-approved Westcorp’s 33-storey, 250-unit hotel/condominium development on Queensway.

• In July, the city approved the Vintage 4 towers (36, 34, 32, and 28 storeys, 1,146 units) on Ellis Street, beside the two One Water towers of 36 and 29 storeys, with 427 units.

• In September, Kerkhoff launched the sales registration for the One Varsity 36-storey, 341-units (tower) at 1405 St Paul, right across the street from the planned UBCO campus building (43-storeys, 473 units).

Altogether, that is a total of 2,767 new residential units in an area that doesn’t exceed 0.5 square-kilometres, or the size of 50 baseball fields.

From a traffic perspective, I can’t figure out how the present roads, which have no room to grow, will be able to accommodate the additional traffic. City planners will tell us that they have a master plan, where people will use public transportation, walk, bike or share rides to work.

That is pure fantasy and wishful thinking. If that was really the case, city planners should walk the talk and only recommend projects with a marginal number of parking stalls compare to the number of units, or even no parking at all.

That is a reality in Calgary East Village at the “N3” 15-storey, 167 units parking-free condo. Wouldn’t that be refreshing as it would resolve two issues; first, the traffic dilemma and second eliminate once for all those massive podiums 16-meter height that have become the new norm in Kelowna.

If people don’t understand what I am talking about, or what the issue is with having towers built on top of 16-metre (high) podiums, a short walk downtown will put things into perspective. Just look at, One Water Street on Sunset drive, Ella on Ellis Street, Brooklyn block at St Paul Street and Bernard Avenue

Water Street by the Park (three towers on Leon Avenue), the Westcorp hotel and The Vintage 4 towers will add to that growing list, which is already way too long.

Such carelessness is very upsetting and is keeping me awake at night more than it should. I am not originally from Kelowna, in fact my birth place is 8,000 kilometres away. That said, Kelowna is now my home. I love the way it was a few years ago but what city planners are doing to the city in recent years is just heartbreaking.

I have no tolerance for nonsense so in the last few years I have joined forces with other residents. Last fall we voiced our concerns about the way Kelowna was being developed. We worked hard to ensure changes would happen at the city council level. After a new mayor and a few new councillors were elected, we had hoped things would change. That (hope) was short lived.

In its very first months, the new city council approved 1333 Bertram Street, a 19-storey tower in a 12-storey maximum height zone. In the blink of an eye, with total disregard of the city’s Official Community Plan 2040 guidelines and public opinion, the new city council approved the height variance, as has been the case for every single tower approved in the past six years.

To add insult to injury, city planners and city council tell us repeatedly, with no shame whatsoever, approval of all those luxury condos is a must as it will address the housing crisis and affordability issue.

Knowing all those new condominiums will not sell for less that $1,000 per square-foot, could somebody from the city explain how that will resolve the affordability issue? The speculation tax, the increase in construction costs and the high interest rates will not make those projects feasible. It is a short-term, but unsustainable, fix.

What will it take for this trumpery to stop?

Bernard Dumont, Kelowna

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