J Smith: Cedar Avenue move par for the course come election season

Every so often one has to smile at the simple irony a day can bring.

Every so often one has to smile at the simple irony a day can bring.

Today, for example, I got to interview a paranormal investigator on the heels of one of the most abnormal political decisions one has seen at Kelowna City Hall.

As Benjamin Radford described how he tracks down the truth behind ghosts and crop circle stories, I have to admit my mind jogged to Monday’s decision to scuttle the linear park plans for the South Pandosy area.

Between the bizarre save-the-park protests for an area never zoned for parkland to the weird attack of the (almost) killer protest sign which took aim at lobbyist Michael Neill’s head when it fell from a crane where fellow protesters had placed it, this story has garnered almost as much attention as an Ogopogo sighting in tourist season.

And similar to any good ghost story, the facts of this particular case were always a bit hazy.

A recap

The whole thing started when city planners presented a scheme to build a small beach-front boardwalk at the base of Cedar Avenue on a plot of city-owned land that had been zoned for commercial use.

There was a long-lost comment, from the 1980s, that the property might one day be used for parkland, but the paper trail went cold.

The end result was that the land was zoned for commercial use in 2004 and this latest round of talks was to rezone to include some residential uses so a mixed-use development could one day be put on the site.

To build a nice neighbourhood, a boardwalk would also be placed along the waterfront and the shoreline restored with a riparian area and a park node.

How this was interpreted ?

By the time this churned through the development…er, I mean neighbourhood lobby, the average citizen in the area seemed to believe the plot of land was zoned for parkland, intended to be a grassy park, and that the city was dumping a huge building on what might have been a great place for swimmers/dog walkers, etc.

Not to mention the fact the sewers dump out a stone’s throw away and the city wasn’t about to set aside a multi-million dollar waterfront property for dogs—that’s another ongoing battle.

So things spun out of control and eventually this pro-park lobby, led by a combo of vocal developers and development critics with a general interest in keeping the waterfront free of view-blocking buildings who came up with an anonymous donor who was apparently willing to pay to turn the entire site into a simple, traditional park—with a donation of $2.3 million.

A phone call was made to city hall by someone inquiring about making such a donation and—in a rather understandable mistake as multi-millionaires with an unusual interest in dead-ends like Cedar Avenue don’t float by everyday—the city clerk’s office assumed the two entities were one and the same.

The long and short it was they weren’t and neither donor has ever materialized with the money, although the political process was very effectively stalled until closer to election season.

Now, whether or not the lobby group’s donor ever existed seems to be the question of the hour, unfortunately one even the city’s abnormal behaviour experts—sorry, I mean the city clerk’s office—were not able to track down.

But with only months to go to an election, the whole mess became so politically unpalatable that the politicians threw in the towel and caved to what one can only be described as a fairly ill-informed neighbourhood of angry but vocal voters.

If only Radford’s skeptical eye had been applied to this ghastly mess, the results might not have been so alien to anyone who believes we vote city councillors in to make decisions—you know, like in a democracy.

There is a very keen lobby of naysayers in this city who have become adept at presenting facts close, but not too close, to the truth and drumming up opposition to any change that the city council might want to make to bring jobs, tourists or building of any kind.

The angry mobs of our city seem to keep winning by dragging decisions out to that all important pre-election period.

The last time this happened? The now infamous CD-21 vote.

 

jsmith@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

Kelowna Capital News