Most successful developments follow a straightforward cascade of events: the developer puts a plan in front of a city’s urban planners, the concerned parties haggle over proposed amenities, variances, infrastructure and the like, and finally the development is approved and built. The forces behind Kelowna Mountain, a proposed 259 hectare (640 acre) resort and recreation development outside of the Canadian city of Kelowna, took an unorthodox approach.
Rather than waiting for the development to be approved in its entirety, some of the key attractions on Kelowna Mountain have been built pre-emptively. These features include ski hill with chairlift, numerous suspension bridges, a trail network, and a mountain bike park. Pending municipal and regional approval, these completed attractions will be joined by a vineyard, gold course, low density residential neighbourhoods, and a school.
However, development on this scale is not without controversy. Environmental concerns are often raised, particularly related to water consumption. As I have mentioned before, the Okanagan is a semi-arid valley, with extremely high rates of water consumption. While Kelowna Mountain aims to achieve LEED standards in construction and design, it is hard to see how this will play out in relation to the two largest portions of the resort, the ski hill and golf course. Snow making equipment will likely be used every season, and the golf course will require constant watering to maintain the characteristic green grass throughout the dry summers. Secondary concerns relate to the exurban nature of the development, furthering sprawl in a city that is trying to encourage density.
Despite the various concerns with the mega-project, Kelowna Mountain is moving slowly, but steadily, toward completion. The vineyard has been issued a business license, and construction began in August 2012. An open house showcasing the suspension bridges drew rave reviews of the fantastic vantage point looking over the valley and Okanagan Lake. Regardless of success or failure, Kelowna Mountain is certainly a development to watch.
Do the economic benefits of Kelowna Mountain outweigh the potential environmental and sprawl issues? What concerns would you have if a new resort community was to be built outside your town or city?
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