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We rent a home on Lakeshore Road in Kelowna. My partner has lived there for eight years and I for six. It's a quiet community that we've come to appreciate for its green spaces and surrounding orchards and vineyards.
We have several resident wildlife who enjoy passing through including deer, fox, coyote, the occasion bobcat, raccoons, and of course resident cats and dogs. Lesser seen but even more important are the untold numbers of pollinating insects (including bees and butterflies) and birds who transit through this neighbourhood or who actively live in it.
Recently, we learned of a proposed development set to go in at the corner of our road (Lakeshore) and Barnaby on a plot of land that has stood empty for as long as we've lived here. The plot of land – essentially a field – is full of wildflowers, likely a mix of invasive, non-native, and native plants alike.
In the spring it is a beautiful sight, full of splashes of colour and teeming with life. On a recent walk through the property, I noticed a family of deer grazing and the field is often buzzing with the sound of bees and other insects. There is a small access road cutting across the bottom of the property that cyclists and pedestrians use to avoid the more heavily trafficked Lakeshore Road: it's a lovely diversion that makes one forget that there are two busy roads right above.
On this recent walk of mine, I ran into a fellow on his bike, who bemoaned the proposed townhome development slated to rip up this wild space.
He was sad that he'll be losing his shortcut home from work (he has no car and bikes or takes the bus). He also noticed the deer as he was traversing the lot, noting that they had been napping and seemed at peace. He expressed frustration that if this development proceeds, the deer would lose their quiet place of solitude.
A few years ago, I had written to Council about the lack of bus services in this area and was told that the current mandate from the City is to prevent suburban sprawl and focus on densifying the downtown core.
This of course makes sense in a world of increasingly scarce resources: we should find a balanced approach to growth that involves maximizing our use of what we already have (building "up" as opposed to "out"). In that respect, the idea of townhomes in place of sprawling, single-family homes, is prudent.
But – if the mandate is to densify downtown and prevent suburban sprawl – why then is the City even entertaining the idea of townhomes on this corner lot in the upper Mission? Doesn't this run counter to the City's mandate?
Townhomes with "breathtaking views" that – in the midst of a housing crisis – will likely not be geared towards those with average incomes.
These townhomes will certainly increase the number of cars in the area, adding to an already congested region (with only one way to get in and out) and contributing to more greenhouse gas emissions (when we should be reducing them). And these townhomes will absolutely involve the levelling of the current meadow, extirpating the wildlife, and destroying a corridor used by birds, insects, and other fauna.
When will the City have the courage to say "no" to these sorts of developments? When will the City realize that development for the sake of development is not sustainable? When will the City place a value on the ecosystem services our wild spaces provide?
What if instead of razing a meadow to install five buildings on this corner lot, the developer put the same amount of resources into revitalizing the area as a native Okanagan meadow, park, or community space (a market garden, for example)?
We love where we live and we feel privileged to be able to do so.
We are not anti-development but we are emphatically opposed to senseless development, particularly at a time when there are so many compounding crises demanding that we do something different.
The climate is suffering; we do not have a sovereign food supply system in the Okanagan; we are experiencing a real housing crisis that is preventing so many people from accessing affordable homes or rentals.
Building beautiful townhomes will not meaningfully address any of these problems. When are we going to start doing something that will?
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