Letter: Tourist centre on prime waterfront is the issue

While Tourism Kelowna says you can walk around the building, you cannot see around it. Our open spaces are not all potential building sites…

To the editor:

Although Tourism Kelowna has responded to the public opposition to their proposed waterfront office with a smaller footprint and without the second floor offices, the original objection was about its location, on Kelowna’s vanishing waterfront. That remains valid — the building, at the end of Queensway Avenue, still totally blocks the view of Okanagan Lake.

The viewscape of our unique and beautiful waterfront is vanishing — all that remains from the Yacht Club to the entrance of City Park is about a five minute walk — and while Tourism Kelowna says you can walk around the building, you cannot see around it.  Our open spaces are not all potential building sites —  we have so little open waterfront land left that we are forced to make a point of ‘going to the beach’ to enjoy it.

The argument that the plan was changed to respect the Simpson Covenant is without merit as, according the 2008 finding of the Supreme Court of BC, the City of Kelowna is required ‘to use the subject properties for municipal purposes and not for commercial or industrial purposes.” Tourism Kelowna was simply obeying the law, although City Hall seems to be broadening its definition of ‘municipal purposes’ as it did when allowing the original Tourism Kelowna encroachment. The same may be said of the city-built parkade for Interior Health. The Court ruling did, and still does, prohibit commercial activities from taking place on Covenant lands.

In this fast-changing and expanding world of digital availability and coverage, creating a building to serve today’s tourists is remarkably short-sighted: When we no longer need to pick up a brochure, or inquire about local events or places of interest, we will still have this building. Who will use it then?

There are many available and vacant commercial spaces downtown and if the adjacent Milroy hotel [Westcorp] is eventually built, its location would be wonderfully suitable for a tourism office.

Building on Kelowna’s waterfront pretty well commits that space to forever have a built structure on it — and forever block our view of the lake. This space belongs to the whole community, and while tourism is important, so too is our visual access to our lake. This is still the wrong location for this or any  building.

Sharron J Simpson, Kelowna