The public process that allowed Kelowna residents to tell city politicians their take on a controversial waterfront proposal closed last week, but opposition groups are continuing with efforts to sway an April 18 vote in their favour.
People for the Park— a citizen group focused on turning seven city-owned properties on Cedar Avenue into parkland—announced Monday they were throwing a party for the park this Saturday afternoon to show community support for parkland.
The news that got more fanfare, however, was that a benefactor is waiting in the wings to fund a $2-million-plus site transition to parkland, should the city see fit to ditch their current proposal in favour of green space. However, nobody knows who the mystery man or woman is just yet.
“We can’t disclose the name, at the donor’s request,” said Michael Neill, a Pandosy area resident.
His efforts have been instrumental in keeping public attention focused on the issue that’s been boiled down to a battle to retain parkland.
“I know who it is, and I feel confident to put my name on this,” said Neill, the owner of Mosaic Books in downtown Kelowna.
“The last thing I want to do is mislead the city or the public.”
City officials, to date, haven’t been made privy to the same information as Neill, although they say they’d welcome any input.
“The city has had no contact with Michael Neill nor any alleged donor regarding parkland or park development,” said Doug Gilchrist, the city’s director of real estate and building services in an email.
“If there is such a person(s) they should be encouraged to contact the city manager.”
Until that time, Neill and his cohorts will continue in their efforts to show politicians that 200-plus area residents who showed up for a marathon public hearing last Tuesday reflected the will of the city at large when they spoke to the value of parkland.
That meeting saw 43 people weigh in on the issue at the meeting, which lasted until 1 a.m.
Four were in favour of selling off just half the land to a developer to fund a boardwalk, small park and shoreline area, while 39 thought the 2.5- to four-storey development would be a detriment to the neighbourhood and city at large.
At the end of that meeting, commentary was supposed to be over, but Neill said just as councillors will have more time to think it over, the community should have more time to make their views clear.
“They are human beings and unless they left town for vacations it’s unavoidable that they’ll hear about this,” he said.
“And I was hoping that the public hearing was when the issue would be decided upon, because we had a huge showing and it seemed unanimous that everyone thought (the development) was the wrong decision,” he said.
“But city council was too tired to make a decision, so they closed the public hearing and gave themselves two weeks to think about it, when they’re actually supposed to think about this in front of us.”
Neill stressed that the parkland proponents are not opposed to development, but the city needs more than just a walkway.
Meanwhile, People for the Park have announced plans to host the Party for the Park, on Saturday, April 16.
The fun begins at 2 p.m. at the beach access at the foot of Cedar Avenue, one block from the corner of Pandosy Street and KLO Road.