Wayne Moore – Feb 27, 2024 -Castanet

The City of Kelowna will be one of, if not the first, community in the province to endorse bylaw changes pertaining to new provincial housing legislation.

City council took the first step Monday giving initial consideration to a number of changes staff had outlined the previous two weeks.

The changes pertain to infill housing and the number of units allowed per lot, bylaws around the city’s heritage conservation area and transit oriented areas.

While the changes being adopted and mandated by the province will give about 26,000 city lots new zoning rights, many of these already align with the city’s official community plan, as pointed out by Coun. Luke Stack.

He agreed with others that the path the city has been taking over the past number of years allows it to be one of the first to be able to adopt bylaws prescribed by the province.

So far ahead

At the same time, Coun. Loyal Wooldridge told council comments he has heard from other municipalities who marvel at how far Kelowna is ahead when it comes to policy shifts.

“When you look at our 2040 official community plan the direction the province is moving isn’t much different than what we have been planning for,” said Wooldridge.

“That has allowed us to be an early adopter of this direction.

“I do fully appreciate and understand there are certain areas of town, the heritage conservation area etc., that have unique concerns but I really do want to acknowledge staff for coming up with creative solutions to manage that.”

City planning director Ryan Smith also acknowledged the changes closely align with council priorities by putting more housing into established neighbourhoods and close to established services.

But he also said the changes being brought forward will not bring a “tidal wave” of change to Kelowna neighbourhoods.

“I think that’s important to understand. When we look at Phase 1 of our infill challenge…by the time we got done with pre zonings for that there were about 900 lots pre zoned,” said Smith.

“Less than a quarter of those have redeveloped in eight years, less than 200.

“Those are the easiest lots to do in the city and those changes came at a time of historically low interest rates and lower construction costs. We will see a trickle of change over time that we can manage.”

Ideally, Smith says staff will be back before council in the winter for potential tweaks to these rules, or sooner if the province announces any change in policy to areas Kelowna is concerned with such as the heritage areas.