Housing, green space and the Tournament Capital program were among concerns of council on Tuesday when examining progress of its official community plan.
City of Kamloops planning manager Jason Locke provided an update to council on KamPlan, advising that multi-family housing continues to boom, sustainable transportation is on the rise and the number of new business licences is steadily growing, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of apartments and condominiums being built in the city is growing and the city surpassed targets for those types of housing units during the past five years. However, single-family and low-density multi-family units — duplexes, row houses, stacked townhouses and manufactured homes — are falling short of city targets.
Coun. Kathy Sinclair previously voiced concern about the “missing middle” in the housing market and, on Tuesday, Coun. Mike O’Reilly additionally expressed concern over single-family housing in Kamloops and demand that is pushing residents to neighbouring communities. O’Reilly said pressures are “immense,” noting a lack of supply is driving up prices. Meanwhile, he pointed out that single-family housing starts in communities surrounding Kamloops, such as Tobiano, are on the rise and suggested people are moving out of the River City to get the house they want, all the while driving into the city to work.
He said when the city factors in its progress on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, it needs to factor in hundreds of homes on the outskirts of the community and those commuting into town.
“It’s almost counter-intuitive,” O’Reilly said.
Locke said lot availability is limited for new single-family homes and land is tied up by a handful of landowners or in the agricultural land reserve. He said the largest growth area for single-family homes will be in Aberdeen.
Private land was at the centre of conversation prompted by Coun. Dieter Dudy, who noted the city’s work toward increasing its tree canopy in recent years that does not factor in tree removal. He said the city cannot know the full extend of its tree canopy without keeping track of how many trees are being removed each year.
Civic operations director Jen Fretz said the city has the ability to track how many trees it has removed from city land and how many trees have been illegally removed from city grounds, but that it has no way to track removal of trees on private property.
Dudy noted one case in which trees were removed from private property, an action that changed the feel of a neighbourhood. He suggested the city put in place a requirement for private landowners to consult with the city prior to tree removal.
Locke said other municipalities have more stringent rules, including tree size.
Another issue was brought up surrounding green space in Kamloops — an initiative outlined in KamPlan to provide residents of urban-designated areas access to parks and recreation within 400 metres or a five- to 10-minute walk.
Coun. Arjun Singh pointed to no progress, with the share of the city’s residents within that specified distance to a park or recreational facility remaining relatively flat in the past five years, at about 82 per cent. The city’s goal is 100 per cent by 2039.
Jimeva Park near Orchards Walk in Valleyview is one example of a planned park yet to come to fruition. Coun. Sadie Hunter added that she has heard from residents about the need for a fully accessible park in Kamloops, one that can accommodate both physical and intellectual needs.
Meanwhile, impacts of the pandemic on the Tournament Capital program were expected, due to restrictions in place to prevent gathering, sports and travel.
However, numbers outlined in the KamPlan update provide perspective about how detrimental those restrictions were to the city’s brand. In 2020, the city reported a 90 per cent drop in out-of-town visitors and spending in 2020, compared to 2019. In 2019, 32,552 out-of-town visitors contributed $14 million in direct spending. In 2020, numbers fell to 2,976 out-of-town visitors contributing $1.2 million. Mayor Ken Christian said anyone who previously doubted the value of such a program for the city should understand it now, in light if the pandemic’s impact.