West Kelowna city council has heard loud and clear from Casa Loma residents—they do not want a huge new residential and hotel development in their lakefront neighbourhood.
More than 430 people packed into the Westbank Lions Community Centre Wednesday night for a public hearing on the Blackmun Bay project, most there to voice their opposition to the proposed development.
The project includes plans for four nine-storey buildings, three with apartments and townhouses and one housing a hotel. A total of 520 units are proposed along with a 421-slip marina.
Representatives of the developer, Landstar Developments, touted the economic benefits of the project to the entire city, talked about extensive consultation with the public and pointed out the original plan to include 15-storey towers was scaled back to nine-storey towers.
But the majority of those who spoke at the public hearing Wednesday night, said they felt the project was too big and in the wrong location. They said the services in the area, such as roads, sewer, water and fire fighting response would not be able to handle the development without millions of dollars of taxpayer-funded improvements.
“This is a square peg in a round hole,” said Ryan Holt, representing the Casa Loma Community Association.
“The developer has overreached.
One of the main concerns of the association is a lack of emergency routes in and out of the Casa Loma Neighbourhood, located just south of the west end of the W.R. Bennett Bridge.
Currently there is just one road in and out of the area, Campbell Road.
There are about 300 homes in the area, and residents said they feared years of construction, increased traffic congestion and other impacts that would not only affect their quality of life but the value of their properties.
More than 30 people spoke in opposition to the project, urging council to reject it.
But not all the speakers who addressed city council were opposed.
A handful spoke in favour, saying the project would be good for the city and the estimated $2.1 million in annual tax revenue from the development once complete would help the local economy.
But opponents countered with dire warnings of years of having large trucks driving in and out of the area as a huge amount of dirt and rock would have to removed in order to build the towers into the side of the steep cliff that forms part of the property.
They also fear the quality of the water the area now receives from Okanagan Lake could be jeopardized if the large marina is allowed to go in and traffic congestion in the area and on the Bennett Bridge will increase.
Fire chief Jason Brolund said the city’s ladder truck, needed to fight high rise fires, is located 12 kilometres away in Westbank and fire fighting response times, even from the closer Lakeview Heights fire hall would lower more than current guidelines recommend.
Despite the overwhelming opposition at the meeting, Landstar Developments president George Mylonas urged council to approve the project, saying to do so would be a legacy the current council would leave.
He called the opposition to the project “NIMBY-ism.”
The five-hour public hearing closed Wednesday night with no decision from council.
A decision will be made at a future council meeting.
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