A proposed residential, commercial and office project on Springfield Road received high praise from city councillors Monday.
McIntosh Properties Ltd. of Kelowna wants to build 500 rental units across from Orchard Plaza in clusters of four-and six-storey buildings, and 200,000 square feet of commercial and office space in one building with six to 10 floors.
To get the 24.35 hectares out of the agricultural land reserve, it has proposed to the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission that it would place 21.4 hectares of farmland in Oyama into the ALR; spend $1.75 million on agricultural improvements to five existing ALR farms throughout the Okanagan; and relocate 15,000 cubic metres of topsoil to be removed from the Springfield Road property to rehabilitate a
former gravel pit in southeast Kelowna at a cost of $335,000.
City councillors enthusiastically endorsed the application to the land commission, which will have the final say.
"This is textbook. I think this is something that could be used as an example in the future for a lot of other people," said Coun. Gerry Zimmermann, who operates his own farm.
Three sides have urban development "so that property will never be farmed productively again anyway," he said.
Then, there are the agricultural enhancements like soil relocation, "a heckuva good idea," and installing wind machines in frost pockets.
Coun. Gail Given said council has "rarely ever seen such a comprehensive mitigation package where, in fact, I believe the agricultural land reserve will benefit."
While driving down Springfield Road, she has often wondered why the farmland beside a major arterial road with urban infrastructure sat empty.
"I think this is an exceptional application. I think they went above and beyond."
Coun. Maxine Dehart described it as the best agricultural exclusion she's seen during the past two years on council. "I don't know how that can be farmed anyway."
Coun. Luke Stack liked the buffering of the urban development from other farms while Coun. Colin Basran complimented the compact urban design which preserves farmland compared to urban sprawl.
Coun. Andre Blanleil noted the farmland is "boxed in" and will add to the Orchard Park town centre, accompanied by a heavy investment in agriculture.
Admitting she wrestled with the proposal all weekend, Coun. Mohini Singh, who works for the agriculture ministry, was the only councillor to oppose it, worried about the long-term
impact on farms to the south.
Mayor Walter Gray noted during his first term as mayor 15 years ago, Kelowna became the first city in B.C. to adopt an agriculture plan, which says this property should be part of the urban town centre densification.
It was unfortunate most of those opposed live in the INvue high-rise on Springfield Road who don't want to lose their "rural backyard," he said.
If those residents had done their homework, they would have known the city's "grand plan" wanted that land out of the ALR, he said.
"I enthusiastically support this because it enhances agriculture in the province of British Columbia, most of which is here. The applicant has to be congratulated for having all the bases covered. In my view, it is extremely supportable."
After the 7-1 vote, Gray added the city needs 300 new rental units a year and this proposal would add 500.