Letter: West Kelowna city hall not a priority at this time

Re: Town centre Revitalization has resulted in stimulating a divisive community…

To the editor:

New city hall complete with civic centre, Interior Health and bus stop. Promises with investors lining up to revitalize the town centre. Yes or No?

The town centre revitalization debate, encouraged by Mayor Findlater, has resulted in stimulating a divisive community not seen or felt since the great naming fiasco, preceded by the yes or no on the question of amalgamation or incorporation.

The mayor’s YES group surrogates are the non-elected representatives for the borrowing of $7,700,000 for the Town centre Revitalization project. The chair of the YES group, Broc Braconnier insinuated the 4,000 people who voted no on the alternate approval were hoodwinked, claiming misinformation. Clearly an insult to the intelligence of the people who exercised their democratic right to express their opinion.

At the same time, people who disapprove of the town centre P3 revitalization have concerns about the priorities the mayor has put before us, and the way they were done. At the expense of much needed infrastructure priorities — roads, sidewalks, water systems, works yard.

The question to ask is will building a new city hall, with corresponding civic centre make your life better? Less taxes and fees? More sidewalks, better roads?

The revised financial position of the city, triggered by the alternative approval process, result of ‘No borrowing please,’ has in front of us now a proposal that after pulling out all the stops we now have a second plan.

Financial alchemy is a wonderful thing. So are reserves.

The mantra of ‘I am a builder,’ ‘cut to fit, and bang into place,’ let’s get ’er done, is echoed by some elected officials..

The town centre has been a dream for generations. The packing plant was on the same street as residential properties. A game changer in 1985 was the Ministry of Transportation putting a trans continental highway through town centre. Then to top it off, in 1986 the Coquihalla joining the Central Okanagan to the Lower Mainland. Without going into further detail, the vision of the then Westbank [politicians] did not anticipate the path they were on.

The Central Okanagan was transforming and Westbank left behind. Now we are playing catch-up.

Spoiler alert. Town centre has already moved. The real question is where are the people going now? Any day and especially on pay days, pension cheque days, just look at the parking lots. They are filled with people and their cars. Some go to coffee shops regularly, visit with friends — Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Winners, all the banks. All these places have nice easy parking. Yes, they are on WFN land, with few exceptions. And there is much more to come.

A question to ask is where historically was the Westbank town centre? Evidence from the QRT Consultants Report in February 2007, to the Town Centre Committee was “there has been no historic institutional precinct. The town centre has only contained the Chamber of Commerce, a Regional District office and the Community Hall. Other developments such as the rebuilding of the fire hall on its existing site, and the RCMP facility in the couplet region are following the current and previous strategies for institutional development in the town centre.”

I would like to vote “for” something, not “against.” Probably like most people. However, the clincher today is when I looked at the city’s website disclaimer, bottom of page after all the reasons and promises of why and how we should trust city hall to spend our $14,800,000 that includes the customary 15 per cent contingency of $2,220,000, wiggle room.

The District of West Kelowna disclaimer reads: “Kelowna’s website is not an official statement of the District’s policy, practice, bylaws, or services, and should not be construed as such…”

We are asked to make an investment in our community. Fine. But no guarantees that the city can fulfill the obligation. Our tax dollars could be better spent on the infrastructure deficit, large enough to choke a horse, that has accumulated over the last ’40 years since public discussion of incorporation failed to go to referendum.’

Historic Westbank History. As a result Westbank stayed as the unincorporated colony of the Central Okanagan Regional District.

We are at the proverbial crossroads. And yes, no overpasses allowed, as per Mayor Findlater.

Please vote. For full disclosure I am not affiliated with YES or NO groups. In my opinion we can locate city hall anywhere. Decision making in city hall is more important than an adventure in social economics by government. At some point, yes we will need a new city hall. Is it a first priority? Not according to some or all of the 4,000 who said no.

Michael Trenn, West Kelowna

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