Letter: Objections to tourism centre on waterfront

Kelowna council can oppose rezoning due to obvious commercial uses of the site and its responsibility to uphold the Simpson Covenant.

To the editor:

Kelowna taxpayers have many social, economic and environmental reasons to vigorously oppose plans by Tourism Kelowna to rezone waterfront land at the foot of Queensway for a two-storey, 5,000-sq-ft commercial building.

First, Tourism Kelowna’s site belongs to city taxpayers. It is public land specified under the Simpson Covenant and cannot be used for commercial or industrial uses. Tourism Kelowna masquerades as a non-profit Society while actively engaging in marketing and promotion for its local tourism industry members to increase revenue and profit. This is not a bad thing, but claiming the site will not be used for commercial uses is a public deception. Tourism Kelowna cannot hide the fact it represents commercial interests and will use the site to contravene the social contract specified in the Covenant.

Second, Tourism Kelowna plans to rezone the site to a zone that allows both public (tourist) and commercial (tourism industry) uses. Kelowna council has recently supported similar deceptive rezoning schemes to lease and “privatize” valuable public waterfront parklands for commercial uses for the Kelowna Yacht Club, the Cactus Club restaurant and the Kelowna Paddle Club. Council provides no economic analyses of these rezoning schemes prior to a public hearing. Inspection of lease agreements reveals taxpayers receive little or no economic benefits compared to the value of the land given up.

Third, it is impossible to justify any public benefits from constructing a two-storey, 5,000 square foot commercial building on a prime piece of public waterfront parkland in downtown Kelowna. In fact, Tourism Kelowna hasn’t even tried. There are only public costs arising from the loss of valuable waterfront parkland; the likelihood that this loss will never be replaced; the likelihood that this site will be expanded in the future; the loss of public access to the water; and the loss of public views of lake and valley vistas. Tourism Kelowna will also create traffic, parking, noise and air pollution issues from tourist vehicles using the site, which in turn impacts public health and safety. Tourism Kelowna has not explained how it plans to compensate or mitigate taxpayers for these losses.

However, there is a simple solution. Kelowna council can oppose rezoning due to obvious commercial uses of the site and because council has a public responsibility to uphold the Simpson Covenant and to protect taxpayer assets. Tourism Kelowna does not have to be located in a waterfront park on Covenant lands. A better location is across the street from the park in the hotel and convention centre planned for the foot of Queensway. This location not only avoids sensitive pubic issues but also enables Tourism Kelowna to be seen as a good corporate citizen that pays its own way, protects public land and values and does not exploit taxpayers.

Richard Drinnan, Kelowna