Construction of new housing at the Central Green site in downtown Kelowna is shown in this file photo from 2018. The planned updating of the city's zoning bylaw could have far-reaching effects on the local building industry.

A comprehensive redrawing of Kelowna's zoning bylaws presents a formidable but worthwhile challenge, city councillors say.

Planned updates, the first in 20 years, are aimed at reducing some zoning classifications, making the building rules easier to understand, and encouraging architectural diversity among the city's urban centres.

For example, there are currently seven residential zones but the intention is to reduce that number to four. And the number of commercial zones would be reduced to three.

A key goal guiding the exercise is to encourage the further densification of residential neighbourhoods. By permitting larger buildings in certain cases, fewer variances would be necessary, streamlining the construction process.

"The variances would reduce once we get the right zoning mix," Coun. Luke Stack said.

Coun. Gail Given said construction methods and the community's vision of what it would like Kelowna to become have changed considerably since the last major change to zoning bylaws, in 1998.

"The ability to create a vision and respond to changing times requires a whole new zoning system," Given said. "Of course, there's going to be a lot of education involved with that, not only for the developer community and citizens, but for us, too."

A series of public meetings on the zoning changes will be held this fall once city planners provide more detail about the proposed updates. A new zoning bylaw should be ready for council's consideration next spring.