Penticton council candidates are all in favour: tread carefully on public parks - InfoNews

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Penticton council candidates are all in favour: tread carefully on public parks

FILE PHOTO - An attempt to commercialize a portion of Penticton's Skaha Lake Park by the present administration has become a political lesson for newcomers and incumbents alike.
October 14, 2018 - 6:30 PM

PENTICTON - Few issues divided the community like this one.

We’re talking about city council’s failed plans, early in their present term, to give Trio Marine Group a long term contract to control a portion of Skaha Lake Park as a private development.

We asked prospective candidates this question: Was the City of Penticton wrong to allow a private business to take up lakefront parkland to provide beachfront amenities and entertainment for residents?

We were hoping to give incumbent candidates a chance to explain what they learned from their experiences, as well as provide new candidates a chance to explain what was wrong and how they will do it better in the future.

Below are key excerpts from candidate’s answers, but the full responses, as submitted are below.

Right idea, wrong way to do it


Andrew Jakubeit (for mayor): The intent to provide improvements to a run down marina, aged boathouse, dated splash pad, addressing having a parking lot right against the water, and creating an amenity to enhance the park experience started off with the best of intentions. We acknowledge a very poor process that strayed away from past projects… it was my biggest regret of my term.

Jason Cox (for mayor): To be clear, I spoke as a citizen in favour of a marina improvement. John Vassilaki and Andrew Jakubeit were both on the council that voted to sign the first deal with Trio Marine Group. Each of them had the opportunity to make the right decisions around that issue and in hindsight neither of them did. By this I do not mean that the right decision would have been killing the idea from the outset. The right decision would have been to have better public consultation, proper due diligence and slowing down to reconsider when voices of the community were so passionate instead of charging ahead with a back room deal that never came to fruition leaving both sides unsatisfied and upset.

John Vassilaki (for mayor): The reality is we have leased parkland for amenities, for example with LocoLanding Adventure Park. Where this council failed the community was driving forward without community input and consent.

Max Picton: As a city, we learned and grew from our past experience with parkland development. This has all but eliminated the potential for such a situation to occur again in the future.

Never should have done it

Penticton City Council candidate Daryl Clarke.
Penticton City Council candidate Daryl Clarke.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED

Daryl Clarke: I believe council started with good intentions on a bad idea and had opportunity when 800 to 1000 people stood in front of city hall to say maybe we need to take another look at this.

James Blake (for mayor): We must never take any action that would control or limit all the people of Penticton from sharing these blessings together as a community.

Dominic Wheeler: No. It was wrong to do so without proper consultation which would involve ecological and economic studies, and proper public engagement.

Connie Sahlmark: Never give away dedicated park space; park spaces are the jewel of the city.

Frank Regehr: The city should not have agreed to a large commercial structure in Skaha Park.Our scarce parkland should not be commercialized.

Julius Bloomfield: There should be no long term leases for commercial enterprise on park land.

Doug Maxwell: Skaha (and all our parks) should be sacred.

Katie Robinson: The city needs to stop looking at all of these long term leases. Our parks and green spaces should be completely off limits to this kind of development.

Glenn Clark: City Hall was out of touch with the citizens when they tried to pull off the water park stunt.I would like to note it was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce. My vote, if on council last term would have been a loud ‘NO'.

Kevin Proteau: The city was absolutely wrong. Show the the electorate some respect and send it out to referendum. Our parks are too precious to be dealt with in back rooms.

Jake Kimberley: Absolutely, that is public land paid for by public taxes for the public’s use, it was never purchased or developed as a park to be destroyed and handed over to a commercial interest.

Marie Prior: A referendum on such a serious issue would have been mandatory, the voice of the people at rally, on the doors of City Hall, was a clear indication of the alarm felt by the residents, no one listened at that time.

Campbell Watt: I feel we were wrong and as a new, inexperienced Councillor it took me longer than it should have to truly hear the voice of the citizens, and in fact, after realizing that, I asked for and then voted to stop the project and have it come back to council for reconsideration.

 

Jukko Laurio (for mayor): “Penticton has no shortage of commercial land and commercial spaces, there is no need to be giving up public land at this time.”

These candidates did not respond:

John Archer
Duffy Baker
Karen Brownlee
Christopher Evison
Joe Frocklage
Isaac Gilbert
Lynn Kelsey
Jesse Martin
David O’Brien
Christopher Millin
Darryl Sanders
Judy Sentes

Here are the candidate’s full response to our question:

Mayoral candidates

"Was the City of Penticton wrong to allow a private business to take up lakefront parkland to provide beachfront amenities and entertainment for residents?”

Jukka Laurio: A fundamental policy of any city should be: to be constantly on the look out for opportunities to increase park space and public spaces for the benefit of the people.  Penticton has no shortage of empty, unused commercial land and commercial spaces, there is no need to be giving up public land at this time.

Andrew Jakubeit: The intent to provide improvements to an run down marina, aged boathouse, dated splash pad, addressing having a parking lot right against the water, and creating an amenity to enhance the park experience started off with the best of intentions. We acknowledge a very poor process that strayed away from past projects like downtown revitalization or the Okanagan lake walkway that involved community input for more than a year. The Skaha Park waterslide issue ultimately took close to two years to resolve which caused animosity and created division within the community. It was my biggest regret of my term

Out of that the city did adopt a parks use and protection policy (so a similar situation could never happen again, and it addressed what are permitted uses in a park along with the steps required to obtain voter approval). We also updated the 25 year old parks and recreation master plan, and created a parks & recreation committee.

The biggest policy change was the introduction to an engagement process. Shapeyourcitypenticton.ca is an online platform that has over 3300 active participants, along with public open houses, and stakeholder meetings captures a broad cross section of the community. The city has dramatically shifted the way we provide an opportunity for the community to participate in the decisions that shape our city. It is no longer a special interest group that dictates what should or shouldn’t take place. The community’s comments, concerns and ideas get captured and are provided to council unfiltered as part of staffs review.

James Blake: Our beach’s and parklands are precious and valuable to us all. We must never take any action that would control or limit all the people of Penticton from sharing these blessings together as a community.

Jason Cox: The City of Penticton has a long history of allowing commercial use of public land to provide amenities to the citizens of (and visitors to) our beautiful city. The Penticton Golf and Country Club, LocoLanding Adventure Park, Tickleberries Ice Cream, Patio Burger, The Peach on the Beach and more are all examples of commercial operations that exist on public land. The marina improvement at Skaha Lake was a very contentious issue that faced the current Mayor and Council. Truth be told, that specific issue started much earlier with a Request for Proposal in May 2013. City Council in 2014 selected the Trio Marine Group proposal for the Skaha Lake Marina Development. The conflict that followed is a dark stain that now exists in our community history. A conflict that falsely divided the community as young v. old or residential v. commercial.

People may recall that I spoke in favour of the marina improvement at city council. At the time, I was the elected president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, that organization took the position of supporting the marina improvement and it was my responsibility to the people who elected me to carry their voice to council.

What we did not know at the time was exactly how badly the current mayor was going to mishandle the situation by not stepping in to build consensus in the community about the project. As a result, now we have paid $250,000 just to get out of the deal with Trio and the marina still needed improving. Instead of having a multi-million dollar private investment to improve the area in a substantial way, we not are spending tax payer money to fix the area in a minimal way.

Leadership in local government is about hearing all the perspectives on the issues and making the right decision for the community as a whole. On divisive issues like Trio Marine there will be many voices to be heard and of course I want to hear them all. There is no way to make 100 per cent of people happy on most public policy decisions, but there is a way to listen to the people as you make those decisions.

To be clear, I spoke as a citizen in favour of a marina improvement. John Vassilaki and Andrew Jakubeit were both on the council that voted to sign the first deal with Trio Marine Group. Each of them had the opportunity to make the right decisions around that issue and in hindsight neither of them did. By this I do not mean that the right decision would have been killing the idea from the outset. The right decision would have been to have better public consultation, proper due diligence and slowing down to reconsider when voices of the community were so passionate instead of charging ahead with a back room deal that never came to fruition leaving both sides unsatisfied and upset.

Dominic Wheeler: No. It was wrong to do so without proper consultation which would involve ecological and economic studies, and proper public engagement. In the future, bringing the results of the studies to the public and asking for opinion and aid in making the decision would be crucial to advancement of the proposal.  It is also important that we ensure equitable land usage rates, especially for protected parkland.

John Vassilaki: The reality is we have leased parkland for amenities, for example with LocoLanding Adventure Park.  Where this council failed the community was driving forward without community input and consent.  They seemed more interested in accommodating the developer than the citizens, they lacked transparency, and ultimately created division and uproar in the community.   I will always encourage community engagement when making decisions about any of our community assets. 

Councillor candidates

Connie Sahlmark: Never give away dedicated park space; park spaces are the jewel of any city. They are especially needed in areas where the cost of living is high. The benefits of green space have been covered extensively since the Skaha Park conflict occurred, so I’ll not go into it. Commercial ventures on private property most welcome if they fit within the direction of the OCP.

Daryl Clarke: I think the people of Penticton spoke very clearly on this one yes it was wrong. I believe that council started with good intensions on a bad idea and had opportunity when 800 to 1000 people stood in front of city hall to say maybe we need to take another look at this. The main thing I would do differently is  be proactive and talk to the people and listen to  what they say about such a major change in the community. The process has been changed at city hall but we still need a council that listens to the people of Penticton. I also believe on projects of this scale referendum should be used as was on the SOEC.

Frank Regehr: The City should not have agreed to a large commercial structure in Skaha Park. When seeking to enhance summer activities, waterfront options should be limited to less intrusive amenities such as portable/temporary additions to support specific events. Our scarce parkland should not be commercialized.

Cambell Watt: I feel we were wrong and as a new inexperienced Councilor it took me longer than it should have to truly hear the voice of the citizens, and in fact, after realizing that, I asked for and then voted to stop the project and have it come back to Council for reconsideration but could not get a seconder. I would hope the new Parks and Recreation master plan dictates that a similar situation will not be a possibility, but I will assure the citizens of Penticton that I have learned from this and will be protective of all our parks space in the future

Max Picton: As a city, we learned and grew from our past experience with parkland development. As such, we have created robust engagement strategies and now have a Parks and Recreation Master Plan, created by community members, which dictate levels of commercial development allowable and the community engagement required. This has all but eliminated the potential for such a situation to occur again in the future.

Julius Bloomfield: There should be no long term leases for commercial enterprises on park land. Any leases to non-profit groups should be in the form of a tenure that cannot be assigned. This can be enforced by adding these terms to the Park Dedication Bylaw.

Doug Maxwell: Skaha ( and all our parks ) should be sacred. No long term leasing! I am a member of the original SSPS and have been from the start.

Kevin Proteau: The City was absolutely wrong the record shows it cost taxpayers over $200 000 to do nothing. At the end of the day they could have bought $200 in paint from Cloverdale and would have accomplished more.

Show the the electorate some respect and send it out to referendum. Our parks are too precious to be dealt with in back rooms.

Katie Robinson: I believe so. The city needs to stop looking at all of these long term leases. Anything over five plus years should be going out to referendum and serious public consultation. Our Parks and green spaces should be completely off limits to this kind of development. I was on the city council that bought the Coburn property back from private hands to enhance Skaha Lake Park, so my commitment has been well documented. I also fought for the Kinney Ave land that had been in our OCP for 20 or more years, earmarked for Parks and Recreation...Just one more example of missed park opportunity lost.
I will continue fighting for neighbourhood identities through public involvement and consultation as always.

Glenn Clark: This city never has had enough parkland. City Hall was out of touch with the citizens when they tried to pull off the water park stunt. I would like to note it was endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce. How history repeats, remember the city tried to commercialize Okanagan Park and get rid of the Gallery twenty years ago.  My vote, if on council last term would have been a loud "NO".  Now the city has its eyes on shuttering the doors on the Gallery (built without any financial help from the city) again next year and we can expect yet another fight. Vote for me if you want someone on the inside looking for balance.  

Marie Prior: Of course, practically stealing the opportunities for future families to enjoy green space as their rightful heritage.  A referendum on such a serious issue would have been mandatory, the voice of the people at rally, on the doors of City Hall, was a clear indication of the alarm felt by the residents, NO one listened at that time. It would be necessary to hold public hearings not connected with City Hall.  

Jake Kimberley:  Absolutely, that is public land paid for by public taxes for the public’s use, it was never purchased or developed as a park to be destroyed and handed over to a commercial interest.


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