A new and larger Kelowna Costco, including a gas station, is planned for long-vacant farmland across from the main entrance to Mission Creek Regional Park.

The volume discount retailer is eyeing a property, currently zoned for agriculture, at the southwest corner of Baron Road and Leckie Road, adjacent to Springfield Road and a kilometre from its current location.

Plans now under review by city staff indicate a store of about 155,000 square feet, 20% larger than the current location. A Costco gas station, which many believe would offer drivers a welcome price break at the pumps, would be built on an adjacent site on Baron Road.

“I’m really pleased that Costco wants to explore this opportunity to make another major investment in our city,” Mayor Colin Basran said Wednesday.

Company officials with the Washington state-based Costco have said for years they were investigating other locations for the Kelowna store, at the corner of Highway 33 and Highway 97, which they say is too small.

The current store employs several hundred people and pays the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes.

The new store would have 820 parking stalls and require a new set of traffic lights at the corner of Leckie Road and Parkview Road.

Once city planners complete their assessment of the development proposal, they will submit a report to city councillors recommending whether or not the property should be rezoned. Although the site is classed A1 farmland under the city’s zoning bylaw, it is not within the provincially controlled Agricultural Land Reserve.

Costco’s apparent difficulties in finding a new location became something of an issue in last fall’s municipal election. Mayoral challenger Tom Dyas accused the city of wanting to impose too many rules for a new store, such as a parkade, so less land was taken up for parking.

Dyas said he understood Costco was considering a new location in West Kelowna or on land within the Westbank First Nation, and that prospect generated alarm among Kelowna residents who are averse to driving across Okanagan Lake.

In response, Basran said city officials were actively working with Costco to ensure the new store would remain in Kelowna.

“This is just a candidate running for mayor trying to find a catchy headline,” Basran said last year. “Of course, we want to keep Costco in Kelowna.

“To say they’re somehow being run out of town, or not being given a warm welcome at City Hall, that’s just not true,” Basran said. “We value Costco’s economic contribution to Kelowna.”

In 2018, Costco paid the city $389,617.83 in municipal property taxes.

Costco had eyed the city’s airport business park as a possible location for a new store. But city planners opposed that site, saying a big-box retailer would undermine the park’s purpose as a location for high-tech and industrial operations.

It was also possible, given the amount of traffic a Costco store generates, that the Ministry of Transportation might have required the company to contribute to the construction of an interchange at Airport Way and Highway 97 North, a prospect that likely diminished the appeal of that location.