Tourist centre opponents not giving up

A meeting has been called by oppoents to a planned new visitor centre in Kelowna.

An artist’s rendition of the new Tourism Kelowna visitor centre on the downtown Kelowna lakeshore.

Kelowna city council may have made its decision regarding rezoning land to allow for construction a new visitors’ centre on the downtown lakeshore, but opponents are not giving up— or going away without a fight.

A public meeting been called by those who oppose the decision for Wednesday evening at the downtown branch of the library. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. March 1.

While not an organizer of the event, Kelowna resident Mo Rajabally is publicizing it and said he is urging the public to show up and express their concern.

He said if it goes ahead—as it appears it will—the issue should be front and centre at the next municipal election.

“Get off your sofa and put you ass in gear and throw those bast**ds on council out at the next election,” said Rajabally in a recent Facebook posting.

Contacted Monday he suggested forming a group such as the one that took shape six years ago that targeted four sitting Kelowna councillors for defeat in the 2011 civic election. Four Change targeted then incumbents Charlie Hodge, Angela Nagy, Michele Rule and Kevin Craig. The four did not win re-election as a result of the campaign against them but Hodge was re-elected three years later in 2014, and currently sits as a city councillor again in Kelowna.

Ironically, given Rajabally’s call for a similar group to one that helped oust Hodge, Hodge was the only councillor who voted against the recent rezoning of the land for the visitor’s centre.

Last month, following a packed pubic hearing that was evenly split on support and opposition to the new centre, to be located at the foot of Queensway, five of the six council members who voted supported the rezoning to allow the 3,000-square-foot centre to be built. (Coun. Maxine DeHart, who works for a local hotel excused herself from the vote citing a conflict of interest.)

Proponents say the location of the planned centre is in keeping with a move to have visitor and tourist centres in cities located downtown and, in the case of Kelowna, will put it where the people are, namely on the popular downtown waterfront.

Opponents, however, say the city is giving up prime waterfront, land that was previously zoned—but never used as—parkland.

The site is the former Kelowna dock of the ferry that took traffic across the lake in the days before the first Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge was built.