June 20, 2016 - 1:00 PM
KELOWNA - The question of whether to help fund a single neighbourhood park turned into a larger debate amongst city councillors today, June 10, about the chronically underfunded parks development program and whether any one neighbourhood should be able to buy their way to the front of the queue.
Neighbours around Lost Creek park, an undeveloped park in the Wilden subdivision, are offering top pick up a quarter of the $400,000 price tag and they’ve persuaded Wilden developer Blenk Development Corp. to put up another 25 per cent.
The Lost Creek neighbours want the city to foot the other half and speed up its development but that’s where several councillors voiced their concerns.
“Wilden is an affluent neighbourhood with million dollar homes. If people are in a neighbourhoods that can’t afford to pony up cash, does that mean their park project won’t move forward as fast,” asked Coun. Mohini Singh.
Coun. Max DeHart warned councillors to move carefully on the Lost Creek proposal, that other neighbourhoods with undeveloped or partially developed parks were watching to see what the city does.
“We could open up a big can of worms here,” DeHart said.
Councillors heard from parks planning manager Robert Parlane the city has 13 undeveloped parks and four others which are partially completed.
Coun. Luke Stack said this has been an ongoing problem for the city, which does not apply a parks development cost charge to new developments.
Developers are required to dedicate a portion of a new subdivision as future parkland or put up 89 per cent of the cost of acquiring land with the balance coming from taxation.
Stack pointed to DeHart Park, Glenmore Park and Cedar Avenue Park, all of which are either undeveloped or underdeveloped, with neighbours who would like to see the projects move forward.
Coun. Brad Sieben suggested the city tinker with the current funding formula for parkland acquisition and direct some of it toward park development.
The city has budgeted $115 million for parkland acquisition, according to to the city’s 2030 infrastructure plan, but has only budgeted $35 million for park development over the same period.
However, director of community planning and real estate Doug Gilchrist told Sieben such a change, while possible, could have implications for the official community plan and other long range planning documents.
In the end, council agreed to let staff continue to work with the Lost Creek neighbourhood but with the caveat it be made clear to them their park project would be evaluated along with other projects as to whether its a priority for the 2017 city budget and could take several years to complete.
They also asked for a council briefing on the status of the 17 incomplete park projects and where each of them fits into long range planning.
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