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Lawsuit launched after permits pulled following ‘tainted’ Kelowna council meeting

Permits were revoked after city learned that students were paid to speak in favour of a building project
(Conceptual rendering/Zeidler Architecture)

The developers of a multi-use, high-rise building that was to be constructed on Doyle Avenue in Kelowna are now suing the city after their permits were rescinded.

The City of Kelowna revoked the building permits after learning that the Developers, collectively called 350 Doyle Limited Partnership (350 Doyle LP), paid people to speak about the project at a public hearing.

The Developers filed a lawsuit in Vancouver Supreme Civil Court on Sept. 8, 2023.

In June 2019, the City of Kelowna put out a call for project proposals for the 350 Doyle Avenue site downtown.

The proposal from a group of businesses, who will be referred to as the Developers, was selected.

Appelt Properties, in partnership with the Developers, then purchased an 80-year lease for the property for $7 million.

The project was initially intended to be a 13-story mixed-use building. However, after deliberation with the City of Kelowna staff, the new project design was 25 stories tall and narrower. The building would include 10 percent “affordable” rental units.

READ MORE: ‘Not a good deal for citizens:’ Kelowna council shuts door on ‘affordable’ housing for Doyle Ave. tower

There was opposition to the building by members of the public, including the Kelowna Legacy Group.

In order to construct the proposed building, the location of the project would require re-zoning.

The new project, along with the updated zoning bylaw changes were scheduled for consideration at a July 2022 City Council Meeting.

Ahead of the City Council Meeting, a public relations consultant was hired by the Developers.

Since the Doyle Street project would be located near the future expansion of the UBC Okanagan campus, the job of the public relations consultant was to educate and engage with UBCO students. The consultant encouraged students who had expressed support to attend and speak in favour of the project at the upcoming city council meeting. The consultant also offered to help those who attended to prepare speaking notes.

All UBCO students who were recruited, attended and spoke at the City Council meeting were paid a $250 per diem to compensate for the time, potential missed work and travel required to attend.

The lawsuit states that “the Developer did not authorize, and never would have authorized, payments to students to change their independently held views.”

At the time of the meeting, the Developer was allegedly unaware of any legislation, policies or bylaws that would require the disclosure of per diem reimbursements.

After the meeting, the zoning amendment was adopted.

In April 2023, approximately 1o months after the City Council meeting where UBCO students spoke in favour of the project, the Developer had discussions with the City’s Planning Department regarding concerns relating to the reimbursements.

The City Council was “concerned with the integrity of the public process in light of the per diem reimbursements,” and said that the payments had “tainted the public process,” and organized a Rescission Hearing.

In August 2023, at a Rescission Hearing, city staff presented and stated that members of City Council were concerned that people had been paid to speak at the meeting after receiving information relating to the incident including anonymous emails.

The City Council then passed the Rescission Resolution which states that if the Developer wishes to proceed with the project, it must reapply for a development permit.

The Developers are requesting that the Rescission Resolution be quashed or set aside on the basis that it was “unreasonable for the city to conclude that the per diem reimbursements tainted the meeting process.” Additionally, the Developers claim that the city failed to employ proper procedural fairness which would include the disclosure of all evidence and meaningful deliberations following submissions.

The Developers state that they have spent approximately $10 million on the project to date.

Both the City of Kelowna and the Developers are unavailable for comment at this time.

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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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