Waters Edge buildings dangerously close? Not so, says city

A couple months after the Waters Edge condo fire, criticisms are brewing over the proximity between the existing building and the tower that was under construction.

Back in 2015, a group of residents asked council to uphold a bylaw-required three metre setback from the laneway separating the buildings.

Planning Manager Ryan Smith says council agreed with staff, who had recommended the variance be approved.

"Which meant a variance for the property line, for the parkade portion of the new building," he said.

"What people are confusing, is that they're saying 'well, the whole building's obviously closer, that's the problem,' when that's not really the case. It was only the concrete portion of the building (that was closer)."

Smith says that concrete parkade in question is also not what sparked up in the fire on July 8, and it didn't cause the flames to spread.

He says the narrow driveway in that area had no bearing on the fire department's response.

"There was some discussion that it was fire lane, between the two buildings, and that the fire department would have needed that. And that's just not the case either. Our fire department has indicated they never would have put apparatus or staff in between those two buildings," he said.

Smith says the fire department has told the city its plan was always to attack the fire from the street, which is also where the fire hydrants are located.

And he says the two buildings were always meant to be built as close together as they are now, because they were originally going to be built as different phases in the same strata.

"Originally, the developer had planned to do the buildings as Phase One and Phase Two, so they would be in the same strata. So there would have been no required setback," he said.

"As they moved along, they decided that 'you know what, we need to do these as two seperate stratas.' Which meant a property line, which then meant a variance for the property line, for the parkade portion of the new building."

He also says that with the variance in place, the building's plans fully complied with BC building code, and also got full support from the Kelowna Fire Department.

The fire destroyed the entire building under construction and six units in the existing building, as well as caused smoke and water damage in more than 20 others, which has lead to more than 100 people still being forced out of their homes.