The District of West Kelowna is objecting to a proposed land exchange between Westbank First Nation and the provincial government.
The proposed exchange would see WFN gain a 698-acre plot of Crown land in exchange for eight acres of reserve land, which are being used for the development of the Westside Road interchange.
Mayor Doug Findlater said the deal goes against the interests of taxpayers in the District of West Kelowna and the Regional District of Central Okanagan.
“Council is especially concerned because the provincial government refuses to provide the District of West Kelowna with a copy of the agreement it has signed with the Westbank First Nation, despite numerous requests for the document,” said Findlater.
Findlater also noted the province has yet to provide the district with any of the land appraisals regarding the land exchange. The portion of Crown land under consideration is near Rose Valley Reservoir and takes up a portion of Rose Valley Regional Park.
“Rose Valley Reservoir is the drinking water source for almost half of our community and having land use control around the reservoir transferred to another jurisdiction beyond our control is not acceptable,” said Findlater.
Westbank First Nation stated both they and the B.C. Ministry of Transportation have been working closely to come to a resolution that satisfies the contractual obligation of the provincial government regarding the land exchange.
“Westbank First Nation recognized and accommodated the needs of the greater community when providing the land used for the Highway 97 corridor, and acted in good faith with the province regarding the conditions for use of WFN lands,” said a WFN news release.
“WFN is committed, like any local government, to managing their resources responsibly.
“WFN places a high value on the environment and the protection of watersheds, and is committed to working with neighboring governments within established protocols,” it reads.
The Regional District of Central Okanagan, however, has confirmed it is against the exchange.
“The regional board is unanimous in opposition to a Crown land application that has been discussed in camera over the past two years,” the RDCO stated in a press release.
“The board resolution does not support a proposed application from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure relating to a portion of Rose Valley Regional Park and the adjacent Rose Valley reservoir watershed.”
The regional board said it is concerned that, if the land exchange occurs, a precedent will be set where the ministry can impact other legal tenure agreements with other local governments or agencies in other areas of the province.