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City of Kelowna, mayor being sued by developer of former RCMP site in downtown core

The City of Kelowna and its mayor are being sued by a building developer.

At the heart of the 33-page lawsuit: How the former RCMP site in the downtown core is being handled.

Once home to the city’s police station, which was demolished in 2018 after 50-plus years of service, 350 Doyle Avenue is currently an empty lot.

It wasn’t long ago, though, that plans were in place to build a tower. However, Kelowna’s current city council seemingly scrapped those plans for the mixed-used building, according to the plaintiff, Centurion Appelt Ltd. Partnership.

The plaintiff says after the building was demolished, the city began looking for a developer. And on May 12, 2020, it and the city agreed to an 80-year lease.

Among the lease terms: the plaintiff would pay the city $2.7 million for basic rent and that construction was to begin before Jan. 20, 2024.

But before the lease was signed, the plaintiff says they met pushback from an association called the Kelowna Legacy Group, which “continued its opposition campaign by holding rallies, press releases and posting on social media. Among other things, KLG publicly described the city’s decision to proceed with the project as irresponsible and called for the city to revisit the lease.”

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The plaintiff says KLG was formed by a local developer, Les Bellamy, who has a condo close to the site, and that Kelowna’s current council is bent on appeasing the group.

The lawsuit also noted the plaintiff requested an amendment on June 1, 2021, seeking changes. In turn, that led to a council meeting on Oct. 18, 2021, followed by more hearings and meetings.

It also mentions, and defends, how the plaintiff gave out $200 “per diem reimbursement” to eight college students to attend a public hearing in July 2022.

It said the college students were brought in because the site would be located not far from where UBC Okanagan was building a downtown campus, and 350 Doyle Avenue would house some college students.

“The developer authorized the per diem reimbursements as reimbursements for the students’ time and expense of attending the meeting, including lost wages and travel costs incurred, in order to facilitate their participation.”

Three months after that meeting, though, civic elections across B.C. took place, and Kelowna voted in a new mayor, Tom Dyas, who the plaintiff says expressed opposition to the project.

And on Nov. 21, the plaintiff says city council refused to proceed with a housing agreement bylaw.

Among the items at issue is a difference in opinion on how many affordable housing units the tower should host.

“On June 23, 2023, the developer wrote to Mayor Dyas and city council expressing concern with the delay and risk to the project timelines caused by the city’s unwillingness to move the project forward, indicating that the developer remained willing to complete the project and had been working with city staff in good faith towards moving it forward,” reads part of the lawsuit.

On Aug. 14, city council passed resolutions that included asking the plaintiff to reapply for a development permit. And on Sept. 21, the city returned the developer’s landscaping deposit.

The plaintiff is seeking a variety of damages, including loss and delay of project profits and increased cost fees, including architect and design fees for redesigns.

On Friday, the City of Kelowna published a statement regarding the lawsuit that alleges it did not act appropriately regarding the project.

“The city has 21 days to file its response,” said the statement. “The city is confident that the legal proceedings will demonstrate that mayor and council followed due process and acted in the best interest of the city.”

It also said “as these matters are before the courts, we will not be commenting further on the specifics of the case. We trust that the court will examine the facts and the law and reach a fair and reasonable conclusion. We thank the public for their patience and understanding as we let the process unfold.”


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