Lake Country council will decide tonight on referendum recommendation by district staff

Lake Country are recommending council approve a referendum on borrowing $2.6 million to purchase the CN Rail corridor.

LAKE COUNTRY - Mayor and council will tonight decide whether Lake Country voters will have their say on the CN Rail corridor purchase through a district-wide referendum.

Staff are recommending the referendum be held April 25 and will ask the simple question of whether qualified voters agree that the district should borrow $2,615,000 to buy the 16 kilometres of the CN Rail corridor that runs through the community.

The recommendation comes after the failure of the alternative approval process when the district received 960 counter-petitions, just over the 931 required to force a referendum.

While council could still choose to abandon the purchase bid, Mayor James Baker and other councillors said last week they are committed to making the purchase. Staff have estimated the cost of holding the referendum at $10,000. It’s not clear if CN Rail has agreed to an extension of the purchase agreement which was supposed to have closed April 1.

Lake Country is hoping to participate with Kelowna, Coldstream and Vernon, as well as the North and Central Okanagan regional districts, in the shared purchase of the CN Rail corridor running from Kelowna to Coldstream, decommissioned last year after sub-leasee Kelowna Pacific Railway went under.

CN Rail has agreed to sell the railroad right-of-way to the communities for $50 million, of which $28 million is in the form of a charitable donation tax receipt. The balance is split between the three communities based on the amount of land within their boundaries. Lake Country’s share is $5.1 million, of which it planned to borrow $2.6 million while Kelowna paid for the other half, allowing the district to pay it back over an unspecified time.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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