Letter: Who supports new visitor centre?

Without exception, citizens I’ve spoken to … are vehemently opposed to the proposed location on the waterfront.

To the editor:

On review of the council meeting held December 12, 2016, I recall statements by members of council to the effect that there is broad public support for the proposed Visitor Information Centre.

This strikes as very, very odd considering without exception, citizens I’ve spoken to (while not opposed to a new visitor centre per se) are vehemently opposed to the proposed location on the waterfront and the city’s likewise support.

Furthermore, combining the letters-to-editors sections of various local media outlet archives and relevant social media postings, by and large most submissions and comments are strongly opposed to the location, with the only real support seemingly coming from Tourism Kelowna directors, staff and other direct stakeholders (i.e. major local hotel operators).

I recently called (the City of Kelowna) to query the quantity of letters and emails that have been received by mayor and council on the visitor centre topic and was advised that between the period of November 1st and December 21st of this year, 84 letters and/or emails have have been received, with 76 in support and 8 opposed.

Again, this unbalance in support versus opposition strikes as very odd and suspect, particularly when typically the majority of letters/emails on an issue of civic importance are more in an opposing vein.

Now most certainly a sample size of 84 out of a population exceeding 130,000 doesn’t even register as a drop in the bucket representing what the positions of the citizen base of Kelowna might be however, there is an appearance that the 76 support submissions may be swaying council to the belief of broad support that may not necessarily be accurate.

With the foregoing in mind, I think it important to analyze the letters/emails to mayor and council supporting the visitor centre in greater detail.

Mayor and council along with the citizenry of Kelowna need to be satisfied that the support letters are not the result of a campaign by Tourism Kelowna and it’s stakeholders to flood mayor and council with support letters swaying council to perceived broad citizen support for the proposed project.

For the record, I am not opposed to Tourism Kelowna or their desire to relocate to different office and presentation facilities.

Tourism Kelowna does good work and that they do, has a value to the broad citizenry of Kelowna.

I am however opposed to the location of the visitor centre on public waterfront lands the lack of transparency by the city in terms of the support costs including land lease revenue amount and terms.

The project publicly pitched as a value of $2.8 million is likely greater than $10 million considering land value and extraordinary servicing and landscaping costs the responsibility of the city.

There is some urgency to this as a public hearing is slated for January 24, 2016.

Jim McMullan, Kelowna