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LETTER: The People versus City Hall

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February 24, 2017 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Editor, 

Since the city decided to green light Tourism Kelowna’s takeover of public parkland, disappointment and anger has erupted.

Letter writers have complained that Queensway Jetty in Kerry Park was the only location considered after council earlier rejected City Park as the site for a new tourist office. They say acceptable alternatives exist. Others have complained there’s been no full cost and benefit disclosure for this project. And some have said the fix was in.

They’ve pointed to potential conflict of interest on the part of council members who sit or have sat on the board of Tourism Kelowna.

They’ve said council’s interests are indivisible from corporate interests, and that councillors have failed to meet their legal responsibility to give fair consideration to the public interest. Public hearings are one way to test public interest. At the hearing in January, I analyzed the city’s applications to rezone the Queensway parkland and re-designate it in the Official Community Plan.

I concluded their decisions were illegal.

Kelowna’s councillors did not care enough to even respond. Let's look at the rezoning and re-designation one by one. Zoning bylaw 8000 provides a land use that's specific to Tourism Kelowna. A market office is a place used for tourism-related administrative or promotional purposes by industry associations that include Tourism BC, Tourism Kelowna, and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

In the case of a tourist office that intends to hold small events and mount cultural and historical exhibitions as part of destination marketing, a related land use would be market community space.

According to the bylaw, any non-governmental office must be located in a commercial zone (or in an Industrial or CD zone, neither of which are relevant in the case of the Jetty). The OCP, which is bylaw 10500, similarly expects to find ventures promoting local tourism to be located in commercial zones.

But the city did not respect its own bylaws. Saying that the land uses that apply to the tourist office were community recreation services, exhibition and convention facilities, government services, and private club, the parkland was zoned major institutional, not commercial, and re-designated educational/major institutional in the OCP.

This is outrageous. Tourism Kelowna is not a government entity and does not provide government services. If Tourism Kelowna were a private club, its lease with the city would not be valid. The lease requires there to be public access to the building at all times. 

Is this a matter, then, of incompetence on the part of the city planner assigned to this file? I think not. I believe that had the city rezoned and re-designated public parkland to commercial, they would have risked even greater public wrath and probable failure of the two applications that were brought to hearing.

Will Kelowna’s council now reverse their decision and meet their legal obligation to follow their own bylaws? Will they respect the will of the majority? Will they accept the reasoning of the only councillor who voted against the applications? 

Charlie Hodge is worth quoting at length. “You ask the people to vote for you because you want to be their messenger. I was on the fence which way to go, and at the end of the day when I had to make a decision, I prefer to go with the human factor rather than the financial one.

“The public made it very clear they were not happy. I’m not doing it for the popular vote. I just really believe we have a democratic process in municipal government. “This is about our community, and our community said they did not think [Kerry Park] was the best place.”


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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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