ELECTION 2014: TaxPayers First pitch new vision of Kelowna’s cultural district

City of Kelowna: "We have never seen anyone ever do this. This is a real platform and these are real ideas," she said.

In an ongoing attempt to have Kelowna voters identify them as the “idea people in this election,” Taxpayers First revealed the third of four city-changing initiatives.

The party—which is comprised of Billie Aaltonen, Michael  Gorman, Carol Gran, Graeme James and Dale Olson—aimed their sights on the city’s cultural district Monday, pitching an upgrade to the community theatre.

Their aim is to see a fully equipped performing arts centre with a 2,500 person capacity built for staging major touring productions of dance and opera, among other things, take the place of the current structure .

Funding the project would require the P4 initiative they’ve been discussing throughout the election (Read inset for details) and Olson told a small gathering at the Royal Ann Hotel Monday, it would come at no cost to the taxpayers of the city.

While upgrading aging city infrastructure may seem like a daunting enough task, Olson had more to show. If TaxPayers First are elected, they’ll go about pitching a canal system to be built around the cultural district that’s comparable to one in  San Antonio, Texas.

“It would take downtown in a different direction,” he said, describing a city hub where people drove their boats down waterways.

The waterways, he continued, would have a tremendous impact on tourism and ramp up the amount of money spent in the city.

Carol Gran noted that it’s high time for some “out of the box thinking” for Kelowna and what they’re offering is just that.

“We have never seen anyone ever do this. This is a real platform and these are real ideas,” she said.

The Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post have named the Okanagan as one of the best tourism destinations in the world, and the canals and expanded cultural district would only add to the appeal.

“This is spectacular,” she said. “There are few places that have what Kelowna has. I think this is magical.”

IN addition to the canal plan, TaxpayersFirst promised not to increase property taxes for the next four years, should they be elected.

Their first announcement focused on the restructuring of the RDCO and the suggestion of affordable or student housing on some of the unused lands. The plan, which included relocating KLO ball diamonds, would save at least $5 million yearly, they claimed.

Their second announcement focused on the early development of the CN Rail lands Heritage Trail.

The third was the cultural component, and on Thursday there will be one more announcement.

Underscoring it all is the campaign promise to not raise taxes for the four year term.

“It’s time for local government to look at how it’s spending,” said Gran. “We’re fiscally responsible, but we’re looking for different ways to fund (projects.)”

A note about our P4 process: Profitable Public, Private Partnership

P4 is a simple series of 4 steps to maximize the value of city assets:

1.    The City identifies or acquires the property.

2.    The City, using its zoning, subdivision, and permitting authority, upzones the property to 
the desired use the City wants to see, and to realize the highest and best use of the lands to be developed.

3.    In some cases, the City adds value to the entire property through the City’s development 
of the City’s land. In the case of the Cultural District, the development of the parkland along the Heritage Trail will add tremendous value to properties along the Trail.

4.    The City then sells, leases, or otherwise enters into an agreement with the private sector to use the subdivided property as newly zoned.