If at first you don’t succeed, try again.
The approach worked for the Rutland Parks Society Monday night when it held a second vote on whether to sell Rutland Centennial Park to the City of Kelowna for $800,000.
Following the failure to win approval by members of the society at an earlier vote in August, the society’s executive scheduled a second vote at its annual general meeting earlier this week.
There, thanks in large part to a doubling of the society’s membership since the August vote, the deal was approved by 71 per cent of the those eligible to vote, easily surpassing the required 50 per cent plus one requirement.
“I’m not surprised by the numbers,” said society president Todd Sanderson, adding he expected at least a 70 per cent approval based on the feedback he had received from people in the community since the last vote.
That vote, which garnered 62 per cent support failed because it required 75 per cent as it was held at a special meeting. The 75 per cent requirement is not required for votes held at the society’s AGM, according to its constitution.
The deal with the city will see Kelowna take over and improve the park, with an initial $400,000 investment and the promise of more later. The city will also get the right-of-way that is current the driveway into the park and will use it to extend Shepherd Road, home of the Rutland’s new transit hub.
The $800,000 that the society receives from the city will be used to fix up the aging adjacent Rutland Centennial Hall, which the society will keep.
Sanderson said the hall is in bad need of upgrading and only has an estimated 10 years of life left if nothing is done.
He said the society only makes enough money each year to keep the hall open, not to improve it or to maintain the park properly. As a result the park has fallen into disrepair and security guard patrol it to keep people out, Sanderson added.
The city wants to improve the park with trails, a soccer field, pickleball courts and a parkour course, as well as other amenities but has said it will consult the community first about what it would like to see in the new-look park. Sanderson also said the city has agreed to keep the park as a park in perpetuity.
But while Monday’s vote passed easily, not everyone was happy.
Some in the crowd of close to 300, 218 of whom were eligible to vote, complained about potential safety problems with a road right beside the park, while others were concerned about parking once the city takes over the driveway, where there is currently parking for the hall and the park.
Sanderson said the plan is to re-orient the hall to face the Roxby Parking lot, a city-owned lot that has 50 stalls. The lot, to be improved by the city, will also become home to carnival rides that are popular during the annual Rutland May Days celebration.
The fate of the flea market held at the Rutland Centennial Hall was also addressed at the meeting. Sanderson said the market will take this winter off to regroup and come back as a bigger and better community market next year.