The Tolko mill redevelopment plan is assured of an 800-metre public walkway on Sutherland Bay. But at this point, the City of Kelowna is not considering the possible impact of a second crossing on that plan or the North End Neighbourhood Plan.

The walkway was first proposed in the

61-page Sutherland Bay concept plan prepared by the city’s planning and development services department in February 1998.

“As per the Official Community Plan, the city will require the dedication of a 10-metre waterfront corridor on the mill property between Sutherland Bay and Manhattan Point if the property is ever redeveloped for multi-family housing, industrial, commercial or institutional purposes. This corridor, once acquired, would permit continuous public access along the waterfront,” it says.

That OCP policy has not disappeared in the intervening years, said City of Kelowna long-term planner Aaron Thibeault who is involved in the preparation of both plans. “There is still policy to direct the city to acquire property for a waterfront walkway. We would be looking to apply that policy in this case for that (redevelopment) application.”

With the Sutherland Bay Concept Plan at 25 years old, “normally, I would say in the course of policy plans, they do tend to lose their weight in the course over time,” he added.

“So a plan that is of this age, I think we would look at it for consideration but it is not something that we would be guided by in its entirety. We would look at issues that it raises anew and perhaps go in a different direction. In this case, the policy still exists to acquire that property for a waterfront property.”

That 1998 plan didn’t consider a second lake crossing in the North End because the Ministry of Transportation was still in the process of replacing the existing floating bridge. With the completion of the Bennett Bridge, potential routes for a second crossing were discussed.

“We know that at one time, the North End was being considered as a possible location for a second (Okanagan Lake) crossing. We haven’t heard word about that in relation to the North End plan,” said Thibeault.

“We know that the province is in the process of making a decision on that but we really haven’t heard anything about it. Or much less the North End as a possible route for a second crossing.”

Earlier in January, a Ministry of Transportation spokesman said the province continues to work closely with local governments, Indigenous communities and the Regional District of the Central Okanagan to develop the Central Okanagan Integrated Transportation Strategy. And the ministry will meet with local governments and Indigenous communities to review the strategy before it is finalized this spring.

“This strategy is building on the findings of earlier regional studies to create a plan for the next 20 years and includes evaluating the potential need for a second crossing, and potential need for improvements to the existing bridge to extend capacity beyond its current state. The 2019 Central Okanagan Planning Study reviewed future capacity needs across Okanagan Lake. That study found that the existing bridge could provide sufficient capacity to meet the region’s needs through 2040,” said the ministry.

The ministry plans to talk with each of the municipal councils in the valley about the next steps for the Highway 97 corridor and priority projects, probably before the end of April, according to City of Kelowna planning director Ryan Smith.

“We more or less have the idea that (the second crossing) is off the books for the province at this time,” said Thibeault. “If it comes back onto the books as a new direction and the North End comes up again as a possible location, we’ll have to take that into account in the North End plan. But at this time, we have no indication from the province that they are considering that.”

According to the mill redevelopment website: kelownamillsite.ca, a concept plan was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022. However, an extensive environmental cleanup may have delayed that. It was planned to parallel the timeline for the North End plan.

 “At this time, we’re aiming to complete the North End plan towards the end of this year,” said Thibeault. “That’s certainly the aim. I think it’s probably taken longer than we had expected originally so it’s still not certain when that end date will be.”