West Kelowna proposed civic centre.

West Kelowna civic centre will go to referendum

The proposed referendum calls for borrowing $7.7 million instead of the $10.5 million sought previously.

West Kelowna will hold a referendum Sept. 17 about its plan to build a new city hall in Westbank.

Council settled on the approach after a lengthy discussion Tuesday afternoon.

The moves came after a bid by the city to have its plan passed by the controversial alternate approval process was defeated by the public last month.

“There is opposition (to the plan) but lets have it out,” said Mayor Doug Findlater in supporting the call for a referendum. “Let’s have a debate and I hope it’s respectful and people tell the truth.”

The proposed referendum calls for borrowing $7.7 million instead of the $10.5 million sought previously.

The remaining money would come from city reserves.

The option of a referendum was one of four on the table for council to discuss Tuesday. The most controversial was a proposal to proceed with a plan to finance and build a new $14-million city hall in Westbank by taxing property owners to help pay for it through a parcel tax on all residential property, borrow more from reserves and borrow $1.5 million from the Municipal Financing Authority, the maximum that a city can borrow without public approval.

All but Coun. Rosalind Neis wanted to press ahead with the plan for a new city hall. Neis said she did not feel the new building was needed and would not deliver the promised economic development supports say it will bring to the Westbank area.

But she agreed to support the motion because it appeared to be the will of the people.

Given the result of the AAP, several councillors said the public obviously wanted a vote to be held.

“We need to carry out what the public has told us to do,” said Coun. Bryden Winsby.

The other options up for discussion Tuesday included a lease-to-buy option with the private developer building the rest of the proposed complex, and scrapping the idea of a new city hall together.

Supporters of the new city hall point out that in addition the new private commercial space and civic square that will be built along with the city-owned city hall, one of the private buildings will contain a consolidate Westside health services operation.

The project will also result in the return of the Mount Boucherie Community Centre, as a community centre, which is currently home to the municipal offices.

Ian Graham, at the forefront of the AAP ‘no’ vote campaign, was at the council meeting and said afterward he was happy council voted to put the project to a referendum.