Kelowna has lost two well known residents, and though they never knew one another and lived polar lifestyles, they both loved Kelowna and were loved by Kelowna residents.
Gary August and Norreen Branson touched lots of lives during their steps upon the stage of life. We are a better place because of both of them.
I grew up knowing Gary and his brother Brian. Gary loved skiing, golfing and boating, and most of all he loved Kelowna. He was also a long time member of the Kelowna Yacht Club.
After university he became a realtor in 1975 and a founding partner of Coldwell Banker Horizon Realty in 1990. Gary served on numerous Okanagan Mainline Real Estate Board Committees over the years. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and fellow realtors. He passed away Feb. 22 from brain cancer at age 65.
Noreen Branson owned nothing, except a heart that loved people and adored Kelowna.
A music fanatic and animal lover, she was well known, especially by those who frequented the downtown area. Exactly how or why Norreen spent much of her final years dealing with addictions and poverty is a mystery to many, but ironically she was always willing to share what little she had, or comfort anyone in need.
Like a candle in the night, Noreen had the ability to spark hope in others when things seemed dark. Not always versed in social skills, one could certainly count on her showing up somewhere unexpected and stirring the pot. Over the years I spent a lot of time with Noreen, sharing stories and memories, and it is safe to say I learned as much from her as she did from me.
Ryan Donn said it best two days ago on Facebook. “Yesterday we lost a stitch in our community’s fabric.”
A memorial service is planned for Sunday at 9 a.m. at the French Cultural Centre.
Thank you to the folks who gave time earlier this week to partake in the Cedar Avenue planning charrette. The process, however, still appears to have been more like a charade.
I attended the Wednesday evening display at the end of the process and am still shaking my head. Can anyone say smoke screen?
After reviewing the results and discussions with some participants, I’m convinced the process was not as open as suggested.
Tuesday morning, the charrette began with a tour of property from Pandosy to Abbott Street, even though that area has nothing to do with the subject land from Abbott to the waterfront. Charrette facilitators rationalized the tour as important to understand the “big picture” for later planning the waterfront portion. That sounds reasonable on first blush but has an odour of manipulation at the end of the day. Upon return, charrette participants spent the afternoon arranging little wooden blocks all over the maps between Pandosy and Abbott Street.
Finally on Wednesday morning, participants got to work on the actual park site and broke into four tables with each table drafting separate conceptual plans. After lunch participants were told they had done such a great job they were sent home early while charrette facilitators finished the maps.
All four maps from the participant tables had Abbott Street realigned, with every concept reducing the land size and diminishing parkland. All concepts showed a commercial structure remaining, albeit the road moved in front of it instead of behind. According to charrette participants, lead facilitator Frank Ducote told them repeatedly that land “needs” to be given up for commercial or development purposes in order to pay for the park.
Ironically the concept that drew as much or even more attention from onlookers was a fifth one promoted by an unidentified resident of the neighbourhood which, while containing buildings, kept the parkland intact. Unfortunately many of the general public were misled (accidentally, I’m sure) by a digital concept picture next to it on the wall showing a highrise being proposed near the park site. The inference of the digital rendering next to the artistic rendering suggested they were connected and submitted by the same person, which made some viewers nervous.
Thankfully some workshop participants were relentless Tuesday and early Wednesday morning in insisting that they be able to look at all 11 lots in the area, not just the seven city staff and facilitators wanted them to look at.
But there are still more questions than answers.
Why was an area property owner who is proposing a 24-storey hotel complex connected to the site allowed to take part and vote in the charrette when not all other property owners in the area were? Is that not a conflict?
Why did staff not include the 11 properties in the original planning for the charrette and only did so after that question was posed two weeks ago and several charrette participants demanded it?
Why was there never a plan proposed for discussion that completely eliminated the commercial component from the waterfront portion?
Why was a map of the current site not available for public viewing until I asked for one Wednesday night?
Why was the paddle board association granted three members on the charrette?
Why do council and city staff continue to say a commercial component is needed in order to pay for the proposed park when the city has received significant rent for the past 20 years? Renters and taxpayers have likely covered the bill already—and what are development cost charge funds for?
There are plenty more questions to be asked too.