In a marathon council meeting Tuesday that ended at midnight, Kelowna city council denied a permit for a large development across from Kelowna General Hospital.
More than a dozen residents from surrounding neighbourhoods spoke against 2169 Pandosy – a proposed five-storey project that included a 74-room hotel, 35,000 square feet of commercial space and large above-ground parkades for nearly 200 vehicles.
“I can’t support this,” said Coun. Charlie Hodge, citing traffic concerns and variance requests for height and size.
While councillors were to only take into account the form and function of the building in making their decision, Hodge took note of the vocal opposition of affected residents. He said better consultation could have taken place.
The motion was defeated 4-3, with Hodge, Loyal Wooldridge, Brad Sieben, and Mohini Singh voting against it.
Mayor Colin Basran, who voted in favour of the development, was even more blunt in his criticism of the way the project was handled.
"I do believe that some of the reason why there is a lot of animosity in the neighbourhood for the project is because of the applicant," he said.
"The fact you have Interior Health across the street, and you're going back and forth in terms of who said what, and there's no relationship there, I think really speaks poorly of the applicant."
Philip Johnson, who lives directly behind the proposed development, spoke against it in part because it had strayed so far from what was initially promised.
Asked by the mayor: “What sort of dialogue did you have with the developer?”
“Zero,” he replied.
Council asked GTA Architecture president Garry Tomporowski about the consultation process with those in the area. He said nearby residents were informed of an open house, which was poorly attended. There was also a secondary mailout when it became clear the variances needed for the development were significant.
“We didn’t do a door-knocking campaign. We’re not a political party,” he said.
Another sticking point was the way the 107-year-old historic Collett House was proposed to be incorporated. The developer had initially asked to demolish the house, a request which was denied. They pivoted to a proposal to dismantle it, move it, and build it into the corner of the building.
Don Knox of the Central Okanagan Heritage Society spoke against the development, saying there wasn’t any opportunity for critical input from any heritage groups in the city.
“Collett House is in good shape and should be saved,” said Knox. “The whole house exists and could easily be preserved. We are very concerned that the house as such will cease to exist.”
Years ago, the Pandosy Street property was brought to council for a rezoning application. It had been envisioned originally as a place close to the hospital where patients could stay while they underwent medical treatment.
Coun. Singh said she remembered when the rezoning application came before council. There was a passionate plea at the time from people who used the hospital services. There was a charitable component to it, with talk of a Ronald McDonald House.
“It just seemed to serve our city with the services we required at the time,” she said.
Now the vision has changed dramatically to a hotel – with no guarantees it would serve patients.
“For me, this change is too dramatic,” she said. “I can’t support the variances that are being asked.”
Coun. Gail Given said she heard loud and clear the concerns from the residents, but they were all concerns over rezoning, which had long ago been settled.
“I certainly understand how that may have left discomfort in the neighbourhood,” she said.
However, Given voted in favour saying at the end of the day, accommodation is required in the large health-care district.
“I actually think it’s quite a beautiful building,” she said.
Councillors generally shared a sentiment that change is needed in the area, as it grows and evolves to serve KGH.
Several residents also said they understand the lot won’t stay empty forever.
In the words of one neighbour who lives in the area: “We are not in opposition to a development, but we are in opposition to this development.”