Cost holds back Kelowna park project

KLO Neighbourhood Association seeks park legacy donation

The cost to develop a planned lakefront public park off Cedar Avenue has increased but the challenge remains the same—how to pay for it.

The KLO Neighbourhood Association held a meeting last Wednesday to discuss how to possibly raise the estimated $800,000 through private donations required to complete the park.

Area resident Michael Neill said the association has met several times with city officials over the past year to create a Memorandum of Understanding draft to achieve this goal, but were told during that process by the city the park completion cost has grown to $1.7 million.

Related: Kelowna faces park funding shortfall

Neill told the 70 residents who attended the meeting last week at Okanagan College that beyond the project cost, another troubling aspect of the MOU is for the city to have the discretion to divert any funds to other park projects, something he said drew a large gasp from the audience.

“I think if we were fortunate enough to be in a situation where a potential donation from someone with deep pockets was brought forward, that aspect would probably be a different discussion than where we stand right now,” Neill acknowledged.

Neill said from the city’s perspective, there is a desire to have control over the park development to ensure “it is done properly.”

Land acquisition for the proposed park had been an ongoing process over an eight-year period from 1989 to 1997, as the city acquired 11 lakefront properties.

Related: More money needed for park development

Plans for the waterfront park were left on the back-burner until 2004 when a hotel was proposed for the southern half of the site to help pay for the rest of the park development.

Vocal area opposition derailed that proposal, as it did again in 2011 when a six-storey condominium complex was proposed for the northern part of the site.

Generating sufficient revenue to complete park projects across the city is an issue that Kelowna city council is currently grappling with, caused in part by the city relaxing Development Cost Charges charged to developers specifically for parkland completion in order to stimulate economic growth.

Neill said a donation of $800,000 or more is one that can’t be met by neighbourhood fundraising, but rather from someone who the financial resources and interest in supporting a community legacy project.

“That’s where it stands right now. We haven’t had anyone step out of the woodwork yet who is able or willing to make that kind of donation, so we will continue trying to put that opportunity out there in the community,” Neill said.

To report a typo, email: edit@kelownacapnews.com.


@BarryGerding
barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

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