Skip to content

Kelowna council strips golf course of industrial zoning

Developer says it intends to rezone the 106-acre property for development
The owner of the Kelowna Springs golf course will be pursuing a rezoning application now that the city has voted to strip the property of its future industrial designation.

Kelowna city council has ignored pleas from the business community and voted to strip Kelowna Springs Golf Course of its industrial land use designation.

The golf course was designated for future industrial use in the city’s Official Community Plan, adopted in January 2022, having been originally recommended for the designation in 2018 city staff report. Adoption of the designation in the OCP led Denciti Development Corp. to place an offer on the 106-acre property with plans for light industrial development.

The purchase, valued at more than $30 million, went through last summer, sparking outrage in the local golfing and agricultural community. The issue figured into stump speeches made by candidates in last fall’s civic election.

That outrage led to a packed public hearing June 20 and, according to city clerk Stephen Fleming, more than 400 pages of correspondence – the most the city’s received for any single issue that he’s seen in his 20 years with the city.

In all, 36 people spoke during the four-and-a-half hour public hearing, 27 in favour of returning the future land use to private recreational and nine against.

In the run-up to the meeting, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce chair Dan Price said reversing course would send an “uncertain message” to businesses looking at Kelowna.

“The current process being employed by council is sending an uncertain message to the investment and development community,” he said last week. “For an owner to purchase a private property based on a designated land-use that was entrenched in the adopted OCP and spend an enormous amount of time and financial resources preparing a long-term plan for that property is a major commitment and now, that time and investment is being put at risk.”

Price noted that Kelowna stood to receive millions of dollars in development cost charges and ongoing tax revenue if the property is developed for light industrial use. (Denciti has estimated annual property tax revenues from the property at $1.7 million.)

Those funds could be used to fund costly recreation projects such as the Parkinson Rec Centre redevelopment, Price said.

“The financial benefits through fees and taxes that would flow to the citizens of Kelowna from redevelopment would only be surpassed by the boost to the local economy as result of 500-600 well-paying jobs (1,200 in the long-term),” he said.

But broad public opposition led council to vote 8-1 in favour of changing the OCP to save the golf course for recreational use. This means the property can’t be developed without the owner first going through a lengthy and costly rezoning process.

Denciti intends to pursue a rezoning at the earliest opportunity.

“Through open dialogue and constructive engagement, we will get to work on a rezoning application for the property that finds a balance between recreational use and Kelowna’s acute need for employment and industrial land,” said Garry Fawley, president and CEO of Denciti, in a statement. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver a project that contributes positively to the community as a whole.”

The rezoning proposal will likely deliver the clearer vision for the property that Loyal Wooldridge, the sole councillor to oppose Kelowna Springs’ reversion to private recreational, felt Denciti should have been allowed to develop.

As it was, most of those who presented at the June 20 meeting were supportive of a preliminary idea Fawley floated to create a “split-zone,” in which the back nine of the golf course would be retained with the other half of the property for industrial use.

To do that, Fawley says there would have to be a seamless transition from an 18 hole course to a nine hole course, a decision which would have to be made within the next 12 to 14 months. If the course ceases operations after next season for even a year, moving forward with that concept would not be possible, he said.

Denciti said following council’s decision to redesignate the property that it cannot commit to the golf course’s operation after this season.

With a rezoning application for the course in the works, the battle over the future of the course is just beginning.

Those who spoke against development of the course pointed to the fact that it’s on a flood plain and its development could put commercial and residential properties downstream along Mill Creek at risk.

Others were concerned about losing an affordable and walkable golf course and the loss of green space in an ecologically sensitive area. Some suggested that the city find upwards of $30 million or more to purchase the property from the current owners and turn it into a municipal golf course.

Coun. Luke Stack, who led the charge to change the OCP and protect the course, said preservation of the property as greenspace should be the priority before any future use was considered.

“Will there be discussions down the road? I am certain there will, but the decision tonight should be to return this back to a future long-term view of private recreational, then we can look at proposals for the property,” Stack said.

But just because the course has been stripped of its future industrial designation doesn’t mean it will stay that way forever, Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas said. Denciti’s plans to rezone the property make that clear.

“It does not mean by any means that this is the way that it is going to stay for the rest of the future. We don't know what's going to happen,” he said. “Somebody else owns this land and it will be up to them to make decisions.”