Kelowna city council may have backed itself into a corner with its recent decision on a park for the south Pandosy waterfront. It’s a corner that could cost a pretty penny to get out of.
Thanks to council’s rejection of a staff option last week that would have provided a park at no financial cost but would have sacrificed some city owned land, council now needs to come up with an estimated $5.4 million unless it wants to let the park plan sit on the shelf.
But, after a divisive three-year fight over what to do with the land in question, and then the extensive public consultations done this year to come up with a compromise, the city created an expectation with the public that the park will happen sooner rather than later.
The problem is, City Hall doesn’t have the money, and has not budgeted, for it. Also, there are plenty of other park plans further along in the planning process whose supporters may be a tad miffed if south Pandosy jumps the line.
By rejecting staff’s recommendation—which would have realigned Abbott Street and sold off some of the land east of the street for development—the local residents may not get to have the park and play in it too. At least not in the near term.
The issue for those who opposed the city’s original plan three years ago and who pushed for a park so vehemently this time around, land loss has always been the issue. They believe all the land was purchased for park and that’s what it should be.
So the city turned to who it considered “stakeholders” to come up a solution.
It held a three-day design workshop, a charette, featuring representatives of area groups as well as members of the public.
According to the leader of the charette, three of the four tables came up with a variation on the plan that included realigning Abbott. One envisioned the alternate. Staff recommended the former, council went with the latter. And for good measure, the five councillors who voted for the winning proposal threw in the proviso that two lots to the north not be sold to help pay for the park.
So the city will not pass go, will not collect the estimated $1.7 million it felt it could get for the lots and will not have that money to put toward the park. That loss pushes the estimated price tag of the park to $5.4 million from $4.7 million.
So now city staff have to figure out how to come up with the money to make the selected option work.
Meanwhile, some councillors are already hearing from disgruntled residents who don’t like the decision. Of course if it had gone the other way, they would be hearing from the folks who are now rejoicing.
With an election coming up, it remains to be seen if council’s decision was a vote winner or a vote loser.
Alistair Waters is the Capital News’ assistant editor.