Legacy group 'shocked' over council reactions to proposal | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Legacy group 'shocked' over council reactions to proposal

The only structural difference between conflicting plans for Kelowna's civic centre is the green rooftop park.
Image Credit: Submitted/Kelowna Legacy Group
October 09, 2019 - 5:10 PM

KELOWNA - Les Bellamy is “shocked” by the negative reaction from city council against the Kelowna Legacy Group’s vision of a "world class" redevelopment of city-owned lands near City Hall.

“All of us in the group, and me as one of those, really just want to work with the city on coming through with a visionary idea here,” Bellamy told iNFOnews.ca today, Oct. 9. “We’re surprised at the city’s pushback. We just want open dialogue. We want to do this together. We’re not here to criticize. We’re not here to say you did it wrong. We’re here to say we’ve got an idea, let’s see if we can work together to achieve this.”

The video and a covering letter was sent to the mayor and council’s group email address last Tuesday, prior to a Thursday news conference where it was presented, through the media, to the public. The legacy group is calling for the redevelopment of the former RCMP building to be put on hold and have their concept considered.

That triggered concerns from some councillors that this was a political effort by people like Tom Dyas who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last fall. Some pundits suggested there was financial gain in it for legacy group members.

Most of those listed on an invitation to the news conference were former Chamber of Commerce presidents. Bellamy said he’s the only one who is anything close to being called a developer. He builds a handful of houses a year, not buildings of the scale being discussed in the video.

He explained that, two or three months ago, he wrote a Facebook post on how he thought downtown Kelowna could use a world class facility. That drew favourable interest from a number of like-minded people who got together to discuss it.

Bellamy, who said he is a residential home designer, has drafting skills so took on the job of putting a “rough scribbled” concept together. He spent a weekend watching YouTube and teaching himself to make a video using Photoshop, which was sent to council and the media.

He also sent it to city staff last Monday. That was the final day of the Request For Proposals that had been called to develop the former RCMP site on Doyle Avenue.

Mayor Colin Basran, on the day of the press conference, pointed out that the city already had a Civic Precincts Plan that had been adopted in 2016 after extensive public consultation and indicated no further input was needed.

“I would want to know who were the stakeholders that were involved and do they rely on city funds for their success and what influence that had, if any,” Bellamy said, adding that he lives and works within a block of the RCMP building and knew nothing about the city’s planning process. Nor did the other members of the legacy group, he said.

Before making the video, he studied the city’s plan and incorporated most of it into his video.

The city’s plan has specific details about the RCMP site – that it hold a residential tower of between 10 and 13 stories, includes completion of the Art Walk and provide community space inside.

The legacy group calls for an 11-storey hotel with condos on that site.

The city plan talks about redeveloping Memorial Arena for “civic use.” The legacy group has “mixed public use” pencilled in for that area.

“The only thing that is structurally different between our proposal and city’s precinct plan is that we’ve interconnected these four structures with a roof – a circular park roof,” Bellamy said. “We’ve just attached those all with a central roof that is green space. The Civic Precinct Plan shows these four large structures, which takes up a lot of land, and we’re replacing that land with a rooftop that is publicly accessible. So we’ve enhanced the Civic Precinct Plan.”

This is the city's plan for the same area.
This is the city's plan for the same area.
Image Credit: Submitted/City of Kelowna

If the only real difference between the two concepts – both of which need a great deal of refining and public input – is a circular rooftop park what is the legacy group trying to accomplish?

More current public input, Bellamy said.

“That was the purpose of us bringing this forward and through the media – to get community feedback,” Bellamy said. “If the community feedback was a big frown and no, that would be the end of it. If the community feedback is, 'wow this is something we would love to see for our city,' then we would proceed to next steps. I feel it’s the responsibility of council and the mayor to listen to the community.”

The group has a Facebook page that has grown from a handful of followers to 333 since the press conference.

“It feels like overwhelming support from the community,” Bellamy said. “Is 333 Facebook followers - I don’t know if that is or not (overwhelming support)? I don’t know what defines community support. I think it’s too early to tell.

“Most importantly, I think what we were really hoping for was for mayor and council to recognize this as a potential concept and that we hoped the feedback would be: can we sit down with you guys and talk about this?”

Instead, a number of councillors indicated there had already been plenty of input from the public.

Part of that discussion should include how it might all be financed, Bellamy said. The Kelowna Community Theatre rebuild, for example, is expected to cost about $68 million with no identified funding source.

“If this is something we would like to do, how do we fund it to the best benefit of the community?” Bellamy asked. “What are the opportunities? Nobody is going to come to the table with money if the attitude from the city council is: we’re closed, there’s a wall here, we don’t want to talk to you. Versus the council and mayor saying this is an incredible opportunity, this is good for the city, the community is behind it. What’s to say a community member doesn’t step up and say: “You know what, I would love to be part of the legacy. How do I help? Where can I sign up? You don’t know, if your wall’s up and nobody’s talking about it.”

It’s expected to take several weeks before the proposals to develop the RCMP site goe to council.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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