Applause accompanied a decision by Kamloops council on Tuesday night to halt plans to build three homes in place of one abode in Dallas.
Months of door-knocking, letter-writing, petition-signing, newspaper-perusing and neighbourhood meetings began in October and culminated in a public hearing on Tuesday at Sandman Centre, where residents opposed to the plan arrived prepared.
Attendees were tasked with addressing specific topics of concern at the podium in order to maximize limited time to speak, scripted speeches quoted newspaper articles and city reports and a retired firefighter was recruited to travel from West Kelowna to address fire-safety issues.
In the end, the work paid off, with council voting unanimously (8-0) to deny the rezoning application. Coun. Dale Bass was on vacation.
“Stressful,” Dallas resident Marty Koslowski said after the vote. “Very stressful.”
About 120 people turned up for the lengthy public hearing, most of whom opposed an application to rezone and subdivide 6325 Chukar Dr. in Dallas. The 1,400-square-metre property — a corner lot at Chukar Drive and Parlow Road between the South Thompson River and East Trans-Canada Highway — currently has one house, which was to be demolished under the rezoning bid.
The plan was to rezone the property, subdivide it into three lots and build three homes in its place. Residents who live in the area, however, turned up in droves to oppose the idea, with Coun. Arjun Singh noting the application drew more public “pushback” than he had seen in some time.
“We as a community group came together,” Chukar Drive resident Leigh-Ann Heyman told council, noting concerns. “We see this as a tipping point for the community because there’s been a lot of concerns with that area due to traffic, density, the railroad track — and we’ve never done anything about it.”
Concerns were numerous. Some, as noted by Mayor Ken Christian, veered off topic from the development in question. There were the usual concerns heard at such hearings, including increased traffic and potential for negative impact on property values.
However, this application posed unique interest due to the seeming island-like quality of the Dallas neighbourhood on the other side of the train tracks, its proximity to the river, its location in a 200-year-flood-plain and large lots — some worth a pretty penny — that have survived despite the city’s encouragement of densification.
One concern voiced by residents was lack of access in and out of the area, due to it being cut off from the highway by train tracks. Contact with CP Rail has apparently been futile, leading a resident to ask if the city have a plan in case of a fire or other emergency?
“Kamloops Fire Rescue does have a plan in place,” KFR Chief Mike Adams told council, noting he reviewed incidents and emergency response times in that area in recent years. “They’re well-serviced in the area at this time.”
Christian said he did not accept that the area was in fire danger.
Flood risk was also cited. The property is at a low point in the neighbourhood and is, apparently, the point at which water collects and drains when flooding occurs. Neighbours were concerned water would instead accumulate on their properties as a result of plans to elevate the subject property. One resident told council his yard would “become a swamp.”
City staff and the applicants insisted, however, development of the property would actually address flooding. Development approving officer Rod Martin said the city “won’t approve anything” that causes drainage issues for neighbours, telling council it would, in fact, be improved from its current state.
Finally came the issue that would ultimately sway council — how the project would fit into the neighbourhood. Teresa Gogel, who lives with her family one lot down on Parlow Road, told council she moved to Kamloops from Surrey in 2018 for the short commute and affordable housing. Living in Dallas, Gogel said, meant she could afford to purchase a home with space between houses and a large backyard. Row housing was out of the question.
“We decided on the area because of the ruralness, the quietness, the space between houses, the large backyards, the friendliness of the neighbourhood, the other children riding their bikes and scooters freely in the neighbourhood, which is exactly the type of neighbourhood we wanted to raise our children in, not watching cars drive by constantly,” Gogel said, noting the rezoning would risk eliminating all the reasons the family decided to purchase in the area.
Applicant Chris Gjernes could not provide council with reasoning, other than financial, as to why he wanted three homes on the one lot. Neighbours said they would have been fine with two homes. At that, Coun. Denis Walsh pointed out that council heard “clearly” from the neighbourhood that “it has to be the right densification for our city.”
The mayor agreed. Though traffic and train concerns were not related to the subdivision proposal, Christian said what “disturbs” him was a lack of sensitive integration.
“The houses will stick up like sore thumbs, in my opinion,” he said.
While shaking off the nerves and celebrating with neighbours, Koslowski told KTW after the decision: “Obviously, cities have to grow. Obviously, densification is part of it. But it has to be, in my opinion, in Europe and Quebec, you have to know it has to be integrated with other buildings. People accept that.”
• Meanwhile, development will proceed in another area of Dallas, following a council decision at the same meeting.
Council approved rezoning at 5220 and 5250 Bogetti Pl., home to Tumbleweeds Pub in Dallas, to allow a new apartment building to be built.
The pub and liquor store will remain, but a house will be demolished on the property paving way for construction of the 18-unit building, which will contain 12 two-bedroom units, six one-bedroom units, a rooftop patio and vehicular and bicycle parking.
Some Dallas residents turned up to the public hearing on Tuesday opposing the project, with parking, privacy and impact to property values cited as concerns.
Coun. Arjun Singh said he was “troubled” by a lack of public engagement on the developer’s part and, as such, voted against the rezoning application. The remainder of council, however, voted to support and it passed by a vote of 7-1.