PENTICTON - Penticton Council gave the go-ahead for Skaha Lake waterfront development Monday, but citizen approval was anything but unanimous.
Plans for a major waterfront facelift at the south end of the city were first unveiled at the May 19 council meeting.
According to all reports, including postings on social media sites and a series of public meetings and information sessions held in the weeks leading up to Monday’s meeting, feedback to Trio Marine Group’s two-phase plan to rejuvenate the marina and add a waterpark was mostly positive.
So it was a surprise to many, including staff and council, when council chambers filled to capacity and well beyond with a large number of residents mostly opposed to the plan.
For more than three hours, council listened to one resident after another express disapproval, not for the development in general, but for Phase two — the portion of the development that would see waterslides constructed on some of the city’s green space.
In spite of what former city councillor and realtor Gary Denton said was a difference of opinion over land use, the arguments boiled down development versus non-development, some people declaring: 'a waterpark can go anywhere.'
Several residents felt the developing Penticton Indian Band locatee lands across the channel would be the ideal place for watersides, with several expressing doubts about the economic viability of such a business in the long run.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said after the meeting Trio Marine Group came up with the idea of a waterpark in response to the city’s request for ideas that would attract families and provide a venue for youth in the city. He said the developer felt it was an amenity that would complement other aspects of the marina master plan.
“Whether a waterpark would survive as on a stand-alone basis, I don’t know, “ Jakubeit said.
Other arguments against the waterpark included the voices of several residents of Regional District Okanagan Similkameen Electoral Area D, who argued the project had the potential to negatively impact the water quality of Skaha Lake. As representative of the residents surrounding a major portion of the lake, area director Tom Siddon requested the city bring the regional district into discussions surrounding lakeshore use.
Others objecting to the “signing over of public lands for private profit" included former Penticton Mayor Jake Kimberley, who twice warned council to perform its due diligence in ensuring the developer had deep enough pockets to see the proposal through. He also warned council not to destroy the hard work of past councils in assembling the parkland 30 to 40 years ago.
Council deliberated a set of four recommendations put forward by staff, wavering at times between delaying the project and adding further conditions.
Coun. Campbell Watt summed up their dilemma.
“We’ve been here three-and-a-half hours, beating the same drum. This has been a lot to take in. I’ve only heard one or two negative comments coming into tonight’s meeting. I need time to absorb this, yet I’m very supportive of the waterpark.”
Coun. Konanz voiced a similar opinion, noting the waterslides were the “biggest issue I’ve heard about. They’ve been used as a metaphor for the decline in youth activities in the city,” she said, adding the marina needed and upgrade and the area needed a restaurant.
They opted to not delay it any further and voted 5-2 in favour of executing the Skaha Marina and Waterfront Development Agreement.
An amendment to set aside 100 per cent of the project’s revenue sharing funds into a parkland-waterfront amenity fund put forward by Coun. Konanz also passed unanimously.
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