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Kelowna said No to Canadian Horizons, Why can't we?

If Canadian Horizons is not asking for OCP or zoning revisions, some of Penticton Council think they "have to" proceed and let them build. But thats not what Kelowna did. Kelowna's public engagement results for Thomson flats was very against this hillside development just like the public engagement results at Spiller Road. Kelowna Council had the courage to stand up to Canadian Horizons and say No, even when Horizons came back with a plan to develop Thomson Flats according to the existing zoning after repeated failures to change the zoning to build a 1200 unit subdivision. The video link below explains why after 8 years of Horizons submissions, Kelowna still rejected their subdivision because Kelowna knows so much more today than they did in 2013 about suburban hillside development. Kelowna city planners recommended Council reject the project and remove the land from its growth area in its OCP. WATCH VIDEO BELOW:

The key reasons the city planners recommended rejection of the project was:

  1. Kelowna has evolved over the last 8 years and have a new community vision;

  2. they understand the ramifications of climate change impacted by urban sprawl;

  3. they have a new infrastructure analysis tool that allows them to understand hillside development is not cost effective over the long term;

  4. they know more about the negative impacts of urban sprawl.

After the rejection of the 1200 units, (Horizons made a second attempt reducing lots to 600 units and still failed - sound familiar?) Canadian Horizons then applied to subdivide according to the existing zoning. Kelowna's Approving Officer rejected their application for the following reasons:

  1. housing would likely provide only very expensive rather than affordable housing;

  2. would be far from the City's urban core, and poorly-served by public transportation, pedestrian or cycling routes, contrary to City policy;

  3. Would require significant and costly extensions of the City's road, sewer, water and drainage systems;

  4. would be contrary to the city's broader goal of reinforcing the existing urban core, instead of creating additional development in more remote, satellite areas of the City;

  5. would be contrary to land use policies of the central Okanagan Regional District, generally discouraging further subdivision and development in the City's peripheral areas.

These concerns led the Approving Officer to conclude that the Canadian Horizon's application would be against the public interest, and he had authority to reject the subdivision application. These concerns are very, very similar to the concerns expressed by the public at Spiller Road.

Horizon's shot back with a law suit. But, after obtaining the pleadings in this lawsuit, it appears that the City of Kelowna have the ability to turn down a development based on current public policy and public interest. These pleadings and the lawsuit summary have been provided to our new Mayor as well as a couple of the Council members. There is no right for a developer to subdivide land, even if lot sizes comply with the local zoning regulations.

The basis of Kelowna's defence to the lawsuit was the following:

  1. Approving Officers of a municipality have a broad discretion to reject subdivisions on public interest grounds;

  2. The Approving Officer also based his decision on the topography and environmental sensitivity of the area;

  3. The City of Kelowna's original rejection of the subdivision was based on inconsistencies with the City's broader land use management goals, that was followed by a resolution to remove the land from the city's urban growth boundary (note: this was something asked by the public in the recent spiller engagement process)

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