The City of Kamloops has a plan to acquire the former Kamloops Daily News building and parking lot at 393 Seymour Street for future development of downtown parking infrastructure and the council has voted through to the next step. However one councillor is not on board with the plan.
At Tuesday's council meeting City Councillor Nelly Dever was the only one to not support the $4.8 million plan in a 7-1 vote. Councillor Nancy Bepple was absent.
With that, Kamloops city councillors voted to move ahead with a borrowing bylaw to purchase the site from the Daily News parent company Glacier Media, something Dever thinks is the wrong move.
“I made it very clear that at the end of the day I understand we all have a similar vision for the downtown and for that particular site, and after reviewing all the information from front to back, I whole heartedly tried to push myself to the other side,” explained Dever.
“But, being a business owner and being raised in a single-family background, I learned fiscal responsibility at a very young age and how to spread a dollar and I just find that there are better alternatives to using the parking reserves and I feel we can make more gain without being the purchasers of this particular lot.”
The cost to purchase the building will be funded through parking revenues and reserves earmarked for parking infrastructure, an argument used by other councillors that Dever doesn’t agree with.
“At the end of the day it is still the city collecting money from the people who reside in our city and we are asked to manage that pot,” said Dever. “I still see that we need to do our due diligence in making sure that we spreading our dollar to the best of our ability and getting the best product for that. “
“I just think that at 4% over 30 years(the borrowing conditions), if we would have held out a little bit more and had some more patience, we could have had a much better deal.”
As part of the sale, the city will take over the 120-stall parking lot and are considering tearing down the former Hudson’s Bay building on the site to create even more parking stalls.
Dever says she is not opposed with using that property to assist in the parking shortage in Kamloops but feels a partnership would better suit the city.
“I think there are a lot of opportunities for a private/public partnership on that lot. I know that there are others that were interested in that lot so I would prefer to see a developer get their hands on it and then look into a partnership with them and spread the risk of the cost to our taxpayers,” explained Dever.
With the clear 7-1 vote it is now up to the public to see if they believe council should go forward and do the borrowing bylaw or if they believe they should not purchase the property.
Under the alternative-approval process, the city must give eligible electors 30-days to object to the city borrowing the funds. If enough people disapprove and the city receives approximately 7,000 signatures against the bylaw, it cannot go ahead with the borrowing without holding a referendum, something Dever says is unlikely.
“I knew going in that I was hanging myself out there to dry but I thought it was important to put my insight out there and hopefully it will stir a lot of conversation in the community and people will say, you know what council and the city are willing to look at partnerships in that property,” added Dever.,
In the short-term, there will be no visual changes to the site, but the City will begin considering design concepts for future development.