Open letter to Mayor and council, City of Kelowna:
As you are aware the KLO Neighbourhood Association (KLONA) recently conducted a survey of our members to determine their thoughts regarding the location of the Kelowna Paddle Centre (KPC) in the proposed South Pandosy park area. The reason KLONA circulated this survey on park use to our members was to determine consensus and suggestions from our community; we realize the survey is not perfect, it is an attempt to maintain an open and democratic organization. Some members of Council may have misinterpreted our motives and “slanting of the issues”. We apologize if this is the appearance, as it is not the intent.
Our intent is to work closely with Council and city staff so that the park will serve the community and not be dominated by any one private interest or club to the exclusion of others. We know that the Pandosy waterfront has been a very contentious subject for many years and thank council for having the flexibility and strength to agree to rezone all the 13 waterfront lots to P-3.
* the KLONA survey results indicated that approximately 60% of responders want more information or time to assess the impact, about 20% are in strongly in favour of the Paddle Centre at this location and about 20% are strongly opposed to the Paddle Centre at this location.
* the City sponsored Mind-mixer survey conducted early this year also asked questions about the KPC. As you know, this encompassed the entire city and was not just confined to residents of the immediate area. The results of the Mind-mixer survey also clearly showed that many people also had concerns with locating that club in the new park (though not easy to quantify, we believe that approximately 90% of those responding had concerns).
We found that most people have no objections to the water related activities of the paddle centre or to the club’s lifestyle and health related objectives. People seem to enjoy watching the activity on the lake and believe it is a healthy and enjoyable sport. However, there are a number of serious concerns that have been raised by our members related to the planned long-term location of the KPC in the Pandosy waterfront park since it has the potential to become very large and dominate all other uses for the park.
1. Parking in the South Pandosy area. This club plans to grow and their own forecasts are that membership will increase to over 300 members within 3 years from the present level of about 80. Parking is already at a premium in the South Pandosy area. Where will all these extra vehicles (and, perhaps, boat trailers) park? KLONA requests that the city conduct a study to address the future parking needs that will be created by the KPC.
2. Private parking of members vehicles on park property. At present the Paddle Centre has a private fenced and secured parking lot for members only. We believe this will be very unacceptable to the public once the land is rezoned to park. Additionally, we believe there should be the absolute minimum amount of parking by anyone in this narrow park once it is developed or else it will detract from the ambience and enjoyment of the park.
3. Public use of the entire park. If the KPC grows as projected it will have the potential to dominate all other aspects and uses of the park. There may no longer be quiet places for people to sit and enjoy a serene view of the sunset or have a quiet family picnic. We believe that this park should be designed in such a way that it is a park for all people. To this end, the beach and park area that the KPC will use to launch their equipment should be accessible to the public in the same way that the public shares Rotary beach with the kite surfers group. There should be no fenced areas other than small exceptions needed to secure valuable equipment if it has to be kept on site.
4. Off-site storage of large equipment. If the KPC has to be located at this location then ideally all paddle centre equipment storage should be on the east side of the roads fronting the park – i.e. Abbott Street and/or Walnut Street. Paddlers are very fit and healthy individuals and can easily carry or roll their equipment across the street to launch it. If this could be accomplished then no public park space would have to be permanently occupied by paddle equipment and no views will be blocked. A special paddler’s crosswalk could be installed with ‘paddle crossing’ warning signs.
5. Financial Viability of the Club. The Kelowna Outrigger Canoe Club has provided staff with a projected five year business plan that illustrates current operations and future growth potential. Since The Kelowna Outrigger Club is a registered non-profit society, and the City is proposing to grant them permanent status on an extremely valuable piece of City property, we see no reason why this financial plan is not available for the public to view. Citizens need to feel confident that the plan is both realistic and achievable. We are requesting that the plan be posted on your City website for public viewing.
We believe that the most prudent way forward for the City in this matter is to continue with the temporary status of the Club. If the Club’s projections are met over the next few years, then the City will be more certain that plans for a building are on track and that the Club will be in a financial position to independently fund operation of the facility.
If the growth projections and revenue stream are not as strong as anticipated, it may be decided that it is more prudent for the KPC to continue with a temporary status until such time as the City is certain that the KPC is in a position to fund the building and operation of the KPC. Due diligence and proof of financial viability should be assessed and secured before any long term commitments are made.
For the reasons listed above, if the KPC is granted use of the yellow house on the north end of the property, we believe that the use should also be temporary. Their projections may never be achieved. We believe that, in order to protect citizens, the City needs to have parameters around the KPC’s use of any part of the park that allow for termination, or reassessment, if they do not meet their projections.
No landlord would or should build a purpose built building or substantial leasehold improvements, without ensuring the financial viability of the tenant over the term of the lease. Council should not take the risk of having a debacle similar to Abbotsford Arena.
6. A public study. A thorough study should be done to determine if this park is truly the best place for the Paddle Centre. KLONA’s recent discussions with Graham Hood confirmed that no formal “study” of locations has ever been done. We understand some on council assume there has been a study. We believe that the citizens of Kelowna need to see a proper analysis of potential sites in order to confirm that this location is logical and the best spot.
The following are some alternative locations that we believe should be considered.
* Sarsons Beach. There is already an activity centre, parking lot and room for storage at this location. It is conceivable that there may be some synergy generated by constructing a building that could be used by both the paddlers and the groups presently using the activity centre since, for the most part, their activities appear to occur in opposite seasons.
* The parking area to the north of Gyro Park. Here there is ample parking and room for storage. All the paddlers will have to do is carry or roll their equipment across Watt Road and launch in the boat area at the north end of Gyro park or at the Watt Road beach access. A secured storage area or a building would not obstruct any public views or park usage.
* Kinsmen Park. This is a considerably larger park in the same area that already has parking and washrooms. These could be expanded to handle the increased volume.
* Sutherland Bay. This is a much calmer area as the winds from the south are blocked. There appears to be ample room for parking or storage.
* The city owned property at the corner of Walnut and Meikle. The equipment could be stored there and carried or rolled across Walnut Street to the launching area.
* Future development of the east side of Abbott or Walnut. Integrating storage and any club house into part of the new developments that will eventually be built across Abbott and/or Walnut streets may be a future possibility.
Since there appear to be other suitable locations, including potential locations in the immediate area, KLONA requests that the City perform a proper study to confirm that being situated within Pandosy Waterfront Park is indeed the best location. Maybe it is, maybe it is not – let’s find out. We believe that there will always be some individuals that have concerns with the location of the Paddle Club wherever it is situated. However, if there is an objective formal study that has evaluated all of the potential sites, at least the City will have a study that chooses a site based on logic to reference.
In order to allow time to conduct the parking and alternate locations studies, and to give both the public and paddle club members a reasonable time to fully understand exactly what the financial needs and issues/problems associated with the KPC are, we respectfully request that the existing 3 year trial period be allowed to run its course. Even if it is decided that the Paddle Centre is a conforming use after the land is rezoned to P-3 an extended trial period should occur before a final decision is made.
KLONA welcomes the opportunity to work with city council and city staff in a constructive and open manner and believe that our requests are logical, not onerous to accomplish and in the general public interest. After all, Council have already identified that budget money does not exist to construct the park in the short term and all people involved appear to have accepted that it will be some time before the new park becomes a reality. We believe that it is much more important to do it right than to do it fast.
Please allow more time to evaluate the impact and perform the studies before a final decision is made as to the permanent location for the paddle club.
Again, we must state clearly that our community is most appreciative of Council’s fine efforts in the designation of this park area. Future generations will undoubtedly thank you for your foresight. Please contact me directly at 250 212 1880 or 250 763 2872 if there are any questions.