Bertram tower

A 36-storey residential tower proposed for the 1400 block of Bertram Street has been rejected by city council. The current height limit for the properties is just 12 storeys.

Plans for a 36-storey tower in downtown Kelowna, aimed in part at the "working poor", were turned aside Monday by city council.

Councillors unanimously agreed with staff that the proposal, while having some attractive features, was simply too tall for the properties where it was proposed, in the 1400 block of Bertram Street.

The specified height limit for the site is 12 storeys, reflecting a transitional zone from higher properties either approved or under construction on Bernard Avenue and low-rise apartment blocks to the north.

"It's a little bit too extreme for me," said Coun. Gail Given. "The height anticipated on this site is just too much."

If council granted a three-fold height variance, Coun. Luke Stack said, it would lead to considerable upward pressure on the value of other downtown properties."If we support unexpected density in this area, it will destabilize the entire neighbourhood," he said.

"The ask is way too much," Coun. Mohini Singh said of the requested height variance.

Original development plans for the site showed a tower of 46 storeys. It was downsized in hopes of winning the support of the planning department, but that was still not forthcoming.

"We feel this is the wrong location for this specific height and density," municipal planner Terry Barton told council.

The developer, Mercidian Group, said the tall height was necessary to be able to provide 276 homes, many of which would be rental or offered for sale at prices in the low $200,000. The project would have included a sixth-floor daycare.

"We have all these people who work in downtown Kelowna with no place for them to live," Mercidian president Fred Johnston told council. In a submission to the city, the developer described the project as being aimed in part at the city's "working poor".

The economics of a 20-storey tower, the developer said, would only favour high-end condominium units. "If we go to a 20 storey building, we're just building condos, is that what you want? Luxury condos?," Johnston said.

But city planners countered that other developers are building new, much-smaller-scale projects downtown that cater to people of modest incomes.

Mayor Colin Basran and Coun. Brad Sieben said they would be prepared to support a variance for more than 12 storeys for the Bertram Street properties, should a revised development proposal be submitted by Mercidian Group.

"It's time to send this one back to the drawing board," Basran said.