Correction: A previous version of this story listed incorrect dates for the open houses, The correct dates are Sept. 6 and 17.
Original story: The Yes side in the upcoming West Kelowna referendum on whether or not the city should borrow millions of dollars to help pay a new $14 million city hall will officially kick off its campaign Thursday.
With Mayor Doug Findlater and principles from both the private developer planning to build the majority of the project the new city hall would be be part of, and Interior Health, a would-be tenant of that private developer, on hand, Yes campaign officials say the kick-off it will give the public an opportunity to visualize the look and feel of the new city hall.
The referendum is slated for Sept. 17 and is seeking approval from residents to borrow up to $7.7 million for the city hall project. Those funds would to be added to as much as $7.1 million of city money in order to build the new city hall, which would become part of what’s being called the West Kelowna Civic Centre Project.
“We recognize the community has a number of questions about the Civic Centre Project,” said Findlater. “It’s critical that taxpayers are as informed as possible regarding this significant vote. We think this referendum process provides an excellent opportunity to have a thorough discussion about the project, and get those questions answered.”
So, in addition to the Yes campaign kick-off—Thursday from 11:30 am. to 1 p.m. at the site of the proposed development at 3641 Elliott Road in Westbank—a number of other opportunities to get information about the project will be offered.
There will be two public open houses to discuss the project Sept. 6 and 13, both from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the existing Mt. Boucherie Municipal Hall
Members of city staff and council will also be at the Westbank Farmers’ Market for the rest of August and the first two weeks of September to give out information. Staff and councillors will be available at this Friday’s Music in the Park event and information kiosks will be set up at all city facilities around town.
“We urge (residents) to take advantage of all the opportunities to get the information (they) need to make an informed decision, and a decision that is right for (them),” said Findlater. “And then we urge you to get out and vote, so you have your say in the outcome of this process.”
The binding referendum is being held after a proposal to borrow $10.5 million for the project was rejected by the public in an alternative approval process earlier this year.
The West Kelowna Civic Centre Project would be a new multi-use development planned for Westbank, behind the existing Westridge Mall shopping centre in downtown Westbank.
The city says the proposed development is the result of years of discussion, planning and public engagement about the community’s desire for a centre of civic life. But opponents have questioned the cost, the location and the timing of the project, arguing the city offices should remain where they are at the Mt. Boucherie Recreation Complex, for now.
If approved, the civic centre development would include the proposed new three-storey city hall building, owned by the City of West Kelowna, as well as a public square for community use, a commercial building and two residential buildings. The commercial and residential buildings would be built and owned by a private sector developer, Strategic Development Group, which is a consortium of local investors.
The project will also involve renovations to return the current municipal offices and council chamber at the Mt. Boucherie complex to its original intended use as a community centre.
The city says the proposed Civic Centre Project will:
• Not result in any additional tax increase,
• Not impact any of the projects currently listed in the city’s 10-Year Capital Plan,
• Allow the city to expand the community and recreational services it offers at Mt. Boucherie because of the expanded space,
• See all health services currently provided by Interior Health in a number of locations under one roof at the new development, with room for expansion,
• Support council’s vision of the Westbank Centre Revitalization Plan and the city’s Economic Development Strategy,
• Leverage private sector investment in the project, which will increase its economic impact in the area,
• Reduce the cost burden and risk to taxpayers,
• Support the city’s long-term vision for the community.