Members of Kelowna’s Sikh community packed council chambers on April 24 in support of a proposal to rezone agricultural land to make way for a religious facility.
Gurdwara Guru Amardas Darbar Sikh Society wants to rezone property at 2809 Benvoulin Road at Munson Road to build a new temple. The plan is for a 25,133 square foot, two-and-a-half-storey building with parking and landscaping, and primary access from Boyd Road.
Although not within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), the property is designated and zoned for agriculture and directly borders ALR land.
A staff report states that Official Community Plan (OCP) policies specifically discourage public or private institutional use including places of religious assembly on agricultural lands.
Staff recommended against the rezoning.
“My objective is to convince you to send this land use change to a public hearing,” said Birte Decloux with Urban Options Planning, speaking on behalf of the applicant.
“It is a central location and connected to agriculture, which is important to the congregation as many of them are stewards of the land.”
Coun. Mohini Singh noted that the issue is certainly emotional for the society and the community.
“This congregation farms over 2,000 acres of land in the Central Okanagan and they are in dire need of a new facility,” she added. “I urge my colleagues to move this to a public hearing.”
Coun. Luke Stack said while he is supportive of expanding worship opportunities, he could not support the proposal.
“Where I’m coming from on this particular one is our permanent growth boundary,” said Stack, who noted there are specific goals laid out in the OCP.
“Those goals were to protect our farmland and in the Benvoulin area particularly. We are comprising our decision to hold the line on the permanent growth boundary.”
Society member Aman Hundael told Capital News that he was encouraged by council’s support.
“We also want to work with the neighbours,” said. “The neighbours have raised a lot of valid points and if we get approved we’re going to be in that community a long time with them, I think it’s important we have a balanced view and listen to all sides.”
Council voted to send the rezoning to a public hearing, after first reading, with Coun. Stack opposed.