For the Record - a growing city with a plan

June 8, 2021

The letter “The great delusion” published May 28 on Castanet, contained many pithy lines and opinions. We thought readers should also have some facts and reasons for the way our city is growing.

The gist of the writer's complaint is that not everyone can take the bus or ride their bike to get where they want to go. Also, highrise buildings are bad and taxes are too high.

First, there is no grand plan to have everyone in Kelowna ride the bus or their bike everywhere. But 60 per cent of car trips in Kelowna are within five kilometres of the home, so staff and Council think there are opportunities in that radius to reduce car trips.

And we have data that shows thousands of commuters every day choose to use transit, walking/cycling pathways and other infrastructure investments built over the years. That removes a lot of single-occupant vehicles from our roads.

Accommodating our future travel by cars and trucks alone is not realistic – one might even say it’s delusional. Our ability to expand roadways and parking is hemmed in by steep hillsides, Okanagan Lake and protected agricultural lands. Widening roads in urban areas is also very expensive.

So, not good for our tax rate.

Kelowna, like pretty much any growing city, has a choice to make. We can keep developing single-family homes until there is no more greenspace on which to build, or we can preserve our attractive environment by focusing growth in urban centres.

We currently have enough land planned for 6,000 single-family houses, so that will happen over the next 20 years. Right now, we need more housing stock that can accommodate the workforce we need to attract so that we can continue to expand one of B.C.’s strongest, most diverse economies.

The Official Community Plan (OCP) is not a regulatory document. It is a policy document. There is a difference between policy and regulation. Regulations are “must do’s” and policies are “you should try to do.” It’s not possible to meet every single OCP policy with every single development proposal. If this were the expectation, very little, if any, housing would ever get built in Kelowna.

The OCP future land use map – one of the primary tools for directing where future development goes – is followed more than 97 per cent of the time.

The writer had a specific question about whatever happened to the Central Okanagan Bypass. The Clement extension to Highway 33 and McCurdy Road was in past transportation plans as a joint City and Provincial Highways project to alleviate congestion on Highway 97. The Province has instead completed the six-laning of Highway 97 from Highway 33 to Edwards Road to improve traffic flow in this area. 

We hope this information provides residents with some assurance that a long-term plan for our city and environment – built with research and input from thousands of residents – balances so many competing interests, and opinions, on how we should grow.