To the editor:
I am writing to encourage the citizens of Kelowna to seriously consider how they would like to have the irreplaceable waterfront land accumulated by the city in the Cedar Avenue/Abbott Street area to be developed. This is a once-in-forever opportunity to plan for the future and I strongly believe that all of this property should be retained by the citizens of Kelowna and used as a park.
Old newspaper articles and documents indicate that much of this property was originally purchased for development as a park, and that many of the lots were purchased specifically with Park funds. It is only more recently that commercialization of this space was included in the concept. There is plenty of space for that type of usage on the east side of Abbott Street where unobstructed lake views and access to the park will still make those properties highly desirable and promote the revitalization of the area envisioned by the City. A boutique hotel, restaurants and shops can all be located on the east side of Abbott in a way that will preserve the waterfront lots and create a vibrant, unique area for tourists and locals alike. These new commercial and residential developments overlooking the park would also create substantial tax revenue that will pay for this park in a very short time.
The City will never have a similar opportunity to purchase this amount of waterfront land in the future. Waterfront land is now too expensive for the City to purchase eleven contiguous lots.
I think our City’s previous Mayors and Councillors have shown tremendous foresight in assembling these properties over the years. We are extremely fortunate that these lands were purchased when waterfront was still financially affordable.
The South Pandosy area is quickly changing into one of the City’s high density areas and this density will only increase in the future. It is one of the areas that the City has designated for high density use in the OCP. The population of Kelowna will continue to grow, putting increased pressure on our existing waterfront parks. Because of the cost of housing, families will increasingly be raising their children in condos, and the lack of private yards will need to be replaced with public parks within close walking distance to where they live.
The City has organized a charrette to discuss development of this property. However, they have placed such tight parameters for member discussion that the conditions are biased and limit discussion of preserving the space solely for park.
-inclusion of space for the Paddle Club (a Paddle Club is a great idea, but why here? The Paddle Club was recently granted temporary space for three years and, somehow, ended up as a required component for these lots. They were also granted three votes, when “citizens at large” only have four votes);
-Financial Viability—Complete the development with no additional tax impact (if we can spend 42 million on an RCMP detachment building that has a life span of 50-75 years, can’t we spend a few million developing a waterfront park that will last for eternity?);
-the timeline calls for a plan by the end of April (the City has had three years to review this property and is suddenly allowing only 4 months, from start to finish, for evaluating options and choosing a plan).
-the five lots to the south owned by the city, and paid for primarily with park funds, are also not included in this charrette. They should be. It would be like having a charrette for only half of Bernard Avenue. Does that make any sense at all?
I ask the City to remove these restrictions and allow for open and unencumbered discussion by members of the charrette, encompassing all of the eleven lots owned by the City in this area.
The City has now closed a very poorly designed website that allowed citizens to give input on the project. It was extremely difficult to navigate and did not easily allow for disagreement of the ideas presented.
This entire process has been flawed from the beginning, and appears to be biased towards encouraging commercial development of these lots, rather than retaining them all as park.
The 2012 Citizen Survey indicates that community access to parks is one of the top things that make Kelowna livable. Citizens consistently ranked parks near the top in relevant categories.
We have to look well past the “here and now” and show the type of foresight that was shown by our forefathers when land was set aside for City Park, Gyro Park and other waterfront parks. These parks were not cheap when they were created either, but councils at the times rightly concluded that waterfront parks are priceless. Let’s not have our children and grand-children walk past this property in twenty or thirty years and shake their heads at our lack of vision.
This is not the time for complacency. If you believe, as I do, that this precious land must be retained for future generations as a waterfront park, please make your thoughts known by e-mailing the Mayor and Council at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in reviewing further information and the history of these properties, please visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PeopleforthePark
Let’s ensure that this property is zoned P3 ( Park), never sold or developed, and is preserved to serve as a park for the citizens of Kelowna for all time.