British Columbia

Fiery public hearing predicted on controversial Kelowna tourist development

The site of Tourism Kelowna's proposed visitor centre on city-owned waterfront property has some residents concerned.

A new visitor centre has been proposed on city-owned waterfront property but residents are divided

Tourism Kelowna has proposed a 3,000-square-foot visitor centre at the site of a city-owned parking lot on Queensway and Mill Street. (Tourism Kelowna)

A controversial new property proposal in Kelowna, B.C., has some residents gearing up for an epic battle at a public hearing Tuesday night.

Tourism Kelowna has proposed building a 3,000-square-foot building on a downtown waterfront property lot owned by the City of Kelowna at Queensway and Mill Street.

It has applied to the City of Kelowna to rezone the space — currently a parking lot — so it can build the new centre.

Tourism Kelowna says its current visitor centre on Harvey Avenue is "outdated", and the new centre will be ideally placed to accommodate high volume pedestrian access and boost "enjoyment levels and encourage longer stays and future trips."

However a petition against the centre said the waterfront lot should be preserved as is to leave an open view of the lake.

Residents have flooded the City of Kelowna with hundreds of letters — both in favour and against the controversial development.

City clerk Stephen Fleming said the nearly 500 pieces of correspondence the city has received on the application is one of the highest volumes of correspondence it's received for a public hearing in several council terms.

While he wouldn't reveal the exact breakdown of which letters were for and against, he told CBC's Daybreak South the city is getting lots of input from members of the public on both sides of the issue.

He expects tonight's public hearing on the topic to be packed.

"Council will hear from staff who will give their best professional advice. They'll hear from the applicant and members of the public and then they'll need to weigh all of that in making their individual decisions," he said.

The hearing starts at 6 p.m. PT at Kelowna City Hall.

With files from Daybreak South

To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled Fiery town hall predicted on proposed Kelowna Tourism Centre