February 25, 2014 - 4:24 PM
VERNON - Public opposition to the relocation of Vernon’s tourist information centre didn’t sway city council during the proposal’s final hurdle.
Around 35 people attended a public hearing Monday to rezone property on 39 Avenue beside Civic Arena to make way for a new centralized visitor centre. It would put the city’s two existing centres under one roof.
The hearing was intended for rezoning purposes, but Mayor Rob Sawatzky says the public had a different idea.
“People had views on the tourist information centre and they were frustrated there is no built-in mechanism for public input, so they used this as an opportunity for that,” Sawatzky says.
He says the city was never required to hold public input sessions around the relocation.
Residents had a number of concerns over the move, ranging from access off the highway, to increased traffic in the neighbourhood. The owner of a local bed and breakfast said he would lose referrals because the new location won’t be as busy.
Denying the zoning change would have curbed the project, and Sawatzky says it wasn’t an easy decision.
“It’s never enjoyable making a decision contrary to what those who attend (want), even when the facts seem to be pretty clear,” Sawatzky says.
He’s confident in the recommendations from staff and the tourism advisory committee that the new centralized location is the right decision.
“I’d point out the move to amalgamate the tourist centres was made by groups of people whose livelihoods depend on the tourism industry. I think that speaks loudly,” Sawatzky says.
Coun. Bob Spiers, who has been skeptical of the proposal from the outset, was the only councillor to vote against rezoning the property.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at email@example.com, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014