British Columbia

Kelowna man arrested for alleged online threats against mayor

Kelowna RCMP have arrested a 52-year-old man in connection with alleged online threats made against Mayor Colin Basran in a social media thread discussing a controversial condo project in the city.

RCMP say 52-year-old faces potential criminal charges after comments over controversial condo project

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said in an Instagram post that he is hurt someone would threaten his safety. (Colin Basran/Facebook)

Kelowna RCMP arrested a 52-year-old man in connection with alleged online threats made against Mayor Colin Basran.

The man faces potential criminal charges and was released on strict conditions Wednesday, according to Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey.

Basran cancelled a Wednesday morning interview with CBC's Daybreak South Tuesday night, after he found out someone had allegedly made a violent threat against him on Facebook in a thread discussing a controversial condo project he was coming on the show to discuss.

The development in the Pandosy area of Kelowna has been a source of tension after the mayor employed a little-used provision in the community charter to bring the proposal back for a second vote after it failed to pass in April.

On Monday, council voted to allow the land to be rezoned for the project. The land's developer will next need approval for a development permit, which involves another set of council votes, according to the mayor. 

Addressing media outside of city hall on Wednesday, Basran said the actions of the RCMP show how serious the issue is.

"Criticism of our decisions and debating issues facing our community is nothing new and it often helps lead to better outcomes. But online comments made by one of our residents yesterday encouraging violence is where we draw the line," he said.

"By ignoring the comment and not saying anything, to me, would just be condoning this type of behaviour. I have to stand up for my council colleagues and the elected representatives at all levels that this incident is not acceptable under any circumstance."

The man is expected to appear in court June 24.

Development project 

Abbott Park, a six-storey condo project that doesn't conform to the community plan because of its height and high density, is a sore spot in the community. 

On April 23, the project was defeated when Coun. Ryan Donn was away.

When the mayor brought it back this week, he said it was because he thinks it's a good fit for the city. 

"I do believe that this project and this application does have a benefit to the area and is in keeping with our goal of directing a lot of our future growth into our town centres and our urban core," said Basran on Monday.

Craig Mohr, owner of Vineyard Developments, the company behind the project, contributed the maximum amount of $1,200 to Basran's 2018 election campaign.

Mohr told Daybreak South host Chris Walker he does not know Basran on a personal level, but he did meet with him in between council votes.

"I expressed that I would like to see a reconsideration vote," said Mohr. "It was a short conversation, a 15-minute conversation, and he had mentioned that he was already having thoughts of a reconsideration in light of the situation that one council member was missing."

Donation didn't factor into decision: Mayor

The mayor spoke with CBC's Brady Strachan on Daybreak South on Friday morning, saying he met with Mohr two days after the initial vote and was already considering bringing the issue back before council. 

Basran says he had forgotten about Mohr's contribution to his campaign.

"I'm not in charge of the finances for my campaign. I'm not the one who collects the donations," said Basran

Basran said the donation was not brought up in their meeting, and did not factor into his decision to bring the rezoning application back to vote.

"However, I can see how some who was opposed to the project would view that as my rationale for bringing something like that back," he said.

Coun. Donn said he chose to vote for the project because he's keeping future residents in mind. 

"I listen to the people that voted me in. The public that aren't residents yet are our kids, people moving to town, people in town looking for growth of families," said Donn.

Frustrated residents

Local Larry Kelly is frustrated there wasn't a second public hearing when the project was brought back to council.

"We're extremely disappointed that, of course, the vote has gone that way. As you know, we worked very hard to present a very factual case at the public hearing," said Kelly.

He's concerned the building will block lake views, doesn't have enough room for parking and the possibility short term rentals could cause congestion. 

Mohr points out Abbott Park is not much taller than another building in the community, and 121 feet shorter than another coming half a block away.

However, the developer does want to apologize for how the process was handled.

"We should have done a better job of informing the neighbours and the general public about the project. We should have held an open house ... now knowing and seeing the anxiety and fears wrapped around the project, we would have done so and it's unfortunate."

With files from Daybreak South

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