How is it democratic for eight folks to resolve on UBCO megatower in downtown Kelowna?

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Councilor Luke Stack remarked: “We took a bit of a tongue lashing tonight. But that’s how our city works and how democracy functions.”

How was it democracy when only eight people got to decide whether a precedent-setting 46-storey megatower can be built in the downtown core?

Instead, council could have pressed the pause button and agreed to an assent vote (formerly known as a referendum), held in conjunction with the October 15 municipal election. Question: “Are you in favor of the UBCO Tower at 550 Doyle Avenue to be built to a height of 46 storeys?”

Now that would be democracy in action.

Professor Lesley Cormack is UBCO’s Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. In her introductory remarks to city council, Cormack said, in part: “… we actually now have a waitlist of 1,300 students, waiting for on campus student housing… I mentioned we opened two new student residences in the last few years , but they’re a drop in the bucket compared to our short and long term needs. On our main campus, with our proximity to the airport, we’re very restricted in height, and therefore the density of what we can build.”

Last May, UBCO’s new Skeena residence officially received Passive House certification — a stringent set of efficient design and construction standards — making it the first student residence in Canada to receive this status. The residence is six stores and houses 220 students. If UBCO builds six more identical residences, they would house an additional 1,320 students. As each storey houses an average of 37 students, then four 10-storey residences of this type could house close to 1,500 students.

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<p dir=Nav Canada is the privately run, not-for-profit corporation that owns and operates Canada’s civil air navigation system. It is responsible for the safe flow of air traffic in Canadian airspace.

At the hearing, councilor Hodge asked Cormack at the 2:23:22 mark of the video: “So my final question then to you is: Why did you not consider putting this tower out at the campus by the airport?”

Cormack: “So Nav Can will not allow us to do that.”

Hodge: “Sorry?”

Cormack: “Nav Can not allow us to do that. That we are very very limited in the height of our buildings on our main campus, and they are as high as they can be because of the planes taking off across the street.”

Hodge: “That’s a really good answer.”

The only way Nav Canada can determine if any proposed structure has any impacts on the air navigation system is through the Land Use Assessment process. During their assessments, Nav Canada ensures that the physical structure doesn’t impact any of their services (instrument procedures, line-of-sights, interference to their navigational aids, etc).

Nav Canada doesn’t have any predetermined height restrictions, as everything is assessed on a case-by-case basis. It has received four submissions in the last two years within 2 km of UBCO, but none at UBCO, and none for a 46-storey building.

Moving on… The agenda for the Aug. 8 regular Kelowna city council meeting includes: “5.1 Climate and Environment Framework and Recommendations Report”.

From the document “Climate Resilience & Environmental Stewardship Review: Framework & Recommendations Report”: “As Kelowna continues to grow and more land is occupied by medium to large buildings, there is an increasing amount of roof space that is adding minimal to no value to the building or the community. Most conventional rooftops actually compound climate-related issues such as the urban heat island effect and stormwater management. Some communities like the City of Toronto have adopted bylaws that require green roofs (ie, a vegetative layer grown on a rooftop ) for new developments, along with other initiatives to support green roofs. Essentially green infrastructure on rooftops, green roofs provide shade, remove heat from the air, and reduce temperatures of the roof surface and surrounding air.”

A question for Chris Ray (the City of Kelowna’s “Champion of the Environment”), planners, and councillors: How many of the 20 to 25 proposed towers within Kelowna’s downtown core (or just outside the core) will have green roofs?

David Buckna


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