Letter: Ask taxpayers about Civic Centre before developer

West Kelowna negotiates with the developer first, citizens who pay the bill second.

To the editor:

Re: Civic Centre proposed referendum.

The West Kelowna Civic Centre referendum will not make the ballot for the November 2014 municipal election, according to West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater, as more time is required to negotiate with the developer, New Town-Sturgess Group.

Talk about putting the horse before the cart.

Those financing this project, the taxpayers, should be asked first if they are willing to fund this proposed project. In the business world financing is secured first before negotiations.

Cost estimates are required, potential anchor tenants are sought in an effort to determine revenue potential and success of such a venture.

In the business world it is the bank or financial institution that agrees to loan funds for a development of this magnitude.

In the case of the West Kelowna Civic Centre, the taxpayer acts like a financial institution and therefore needs to be consulted.

On the District of West Kelowna’s website, Municipal Hall/Civic Centre on page 5, it is clearly stated that “there is a need for public input to approve borrowing of funds, either through a pre-election poll or a referendum in conjunction with the election.”

However, Mayor Findlater has now publicly announced that a pre-election poll and the election ballot referendum are off the table.

Also, on the District’s website the proposed Civic Centre is identified as Westbank.

The current site of the project—3541 Elliot Road—is not the geographical centre of the District of West Kelowna.

Surely, a civic centre should be located in the centre of the municipality that it serves.

Prior to Incorporation a four-year Governance Study was undertaken. The cost to the taxpayer was $500,000. This study determined that the centre of the Westside is the Boucherie corridor. Doug Findlater was the chair of the Governance Committee, but perhaps he has forgotten about this study and its findings.

In 2013 the District of West Kelowna sent surveys to a random 1,000 out of 13,969 tax notice addresses.

In all, 279 responses were received and of those, 75 wanted the Civic Centre in Westbank. This means that only 0.533 per cent of West Kelowna citizens have indicated “yes” for the project.

A rate of 0.533 per cent is far too small a number on which to make such a great financial decision that will burden the taxpayer for many years.

A referendum is the only fair and honest way to determine the taxpayers’ wishes for this project as it is a particularly effective way of engaging all those who vote and are involved in municipal politics.

A referendum is a means of engaging the public and it ensures that many voices are heard. One wonders why our elected officials are denying the taxpayer this fair and honest opportunity to have a voice? A voice that is protected by the confidentiality of their response to a legitimate ballot question.

Mr. Findlater, as a tax paying potential financer, I want to cast my vote on the November election ballot on the question of the proposed Civic Centre and I am very confident that other tax-paying potential financers also want this opportunity.

Mary Mandarino,

West Kelowna