Councillor expects letter to province raising land use concerns will still be sent

Land use letter will be sent

A Kamloops councillor says council still needs to bring its concerns to the province around who should have jurisdiction over land use decisions, even after the municipality has been named as one of the first to receive housing targets.

Nancy Bepple put forward a motion recommending council send a letter to the provincial minister for housing, stating the City of Kamloops is already on the right track with policies aimed at boosting the number of houses, and should be allowed to make its own land use decisions.

Council voted 5-3 to adopt Bepple’s motion, which listed a number of initiatives the city had undertaken since 2011 to encourage density.

The vote happened just a day before the ministry of housing announced the first group of municipalities to receive housing targets to spur residential construction — with Kamloops the only Interior city named on the list.

Bepple told Castanet Kamloops she expects the letter will be sent, despite the new development.

“It might be framed slightly differently because they've actually said that they're going to do it, but we have raised concerns about the provincial government dictating land use within the City of Kamloops. That is a strong concern of the council,” Bepple said.

“I think that message still needs to go to the province.”

Bepple, among other councillors, has raised concerns that increased density in some areas of the city might put strain on infrastructure and other community facilities.

She said as Kamloops has been selected to receive housing targets, city staff will be looking at the provincial government’s expectations, discussing Kamloops’ housing needs and ensuring the province understands the work already underway to try and bolster housing supply.

“Staff is going to be going through what has come from the provincial government, and looking at how to work within the framework of the province,” Bepple said.

“Going hand in hand with that, what I would expect is that staff will be explaining to the province — and maybe it's also politicians from City of Kamloops explaining to the province — what our concerns are in having the province dictate zoning within the City of Kamloops.”

Bepple said the city has been “very proactive” to meet housing needs — but this doesn’t mean Kamloops doesn’t need more housing.

“The group with the highest need by far is single mothers with children. So we do need to make sure that we're building housing that meets the needs of the people that live here,” she said.

For Tuesday's motion, councillors Bepple, Dale Bass, Margot Middleton, Katie Neustaeter and Stephen Karpuk were in favour of sending the letter to the province.

Councillors Mike O'Reilly, Kelly Hall and Bill Sarai were opposed.

Sarai said he didn't think the city was in a position to tell the government not to interfere in municipal land use decisions, and he didn't want the city to jeopardize ongoing negotiations about certain opportunities.

Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson recused himself from the vote citing a conflict of interest, but didn't say why.

Hamer-Jackson later told Castanet Kamloops he had just taken the call with Minister Ravi Kahlon to discuss the housing targets list a day ahead of the official announcement.

“In the meeting, it kind of made me think different than what I was thinking before the meeting. So I felt, I don’t know if I’d say conflicted, but it changed my thinking a little bit,” Hamer-Jackson said.

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