ALC vetoes Dunes development

Developer vows to rework plans for Westsyde project and go for an appeal

B.C.'s Agricultural Land Commission has turned down a proposed new development at the Dunes golf course, striking down a plan to add more than 300 multi-family units.

The commission released its decision this week denying an exclusion application on ALR land by Bill Bilton's North Core Development.

Bilton sought to exclude about seven hectares of Dunes at Kamloops Golf Club, currently used for a driving range, storage of trailers and a sand pit.

But he vowed Friday to rework his plans to add to the successful housing and golf course project north Westsyde.

"I've got a resolution from the City supporting it. I've got one year to appeal (to the commission)," he said in an interview.

"I sort of expected it after our hearing. I expect maybe they'll want a downsize and maybe reshaping and egress."

The proposal also included a commitment to plant fruit trees that would be tended by a future lessee.

Martin Collins, a regional planner with the commission, noted the Dunes course is a legacy of the Social Credit government between 1988-92. It allowed development of golf courses on land within the agricultural land reserve.

That led to a stampede of about 100 courses built on farmland.

The commission continues with a philosophy today that courses could be turned back to growing food one day.

During the past two decades, developers have sought to add housing because standalone golf courses are typically a weak financial proposition.

"There's a lot of golf courses not doing well," Collins said. "They're going to approach the commission for housing."

Bilton's latest proposal is the fourth time he has approached the commission for developments on the property.

He was successful in 2007, carving off a five-hectare strip along Harrington Road and Westsyde Road. The commission ruled that would not significantly affect potential agricultural production of the land.

It also allowed exclusion in 1991 for the original housing development on a smaller parcel after first denying a similar application.

In 2008, it allowed another nine holes to be developed.

But it ruled in a decision released this week that the property sought for housing would represent a permanent loss to the ALR on land suitable for agriculture.

Nancy Bepple was the only Kamloops councillor to vote against the rezoning in May 2012, arguing agriculture needs to be supported within municipalities.

"Seventy-five per cent of agricultural land in B.C. is within municipalities. As a municipality we can't think of agricultural land as an issue outside the city."

Bepple said putting agricultural land "side-by-side with housing is not the way to go."

The news was welcome for Westsyde resident Sandy Walters, who moved to Kamloops five years ago to purchase a home on a golf course. The new development would place her house next to a condo development.

"When we got news of building apartments in the middle of the golf course, it came as a surprise. We built with the understanding we'd be on a golf course."

Steve Delaney, a longtime Westsyde resident and author of a local newsletter, said the rejection will be greeted with mixed views.

"Some will say it's good because they really like the small community atmosphere. Some of us will be a little disappointed. More housing would mean more service and retail -more demand."

Bilton said he will look in detail at the commission's report and reasoning and hopes to craft a compromise, something that may mean fewer units.

"If we have to downsize it, it won't bother me that much."

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