Council pumps up park size

Council voted for more parkland for the South Pandosy waterfront on Monday.

Kelowna City Council went against the advice of staff and went with an option that includes nearly twice as much parkland for the waterfront in the area of Abbott Street and Walnut Avenue.

The controversial project has been on various council's radar for several years before being put on hold three years ago.

Two proposals came out of a city commissioned charrette held in February.

Staff supported Option four which included 5,740 square metres of parkland. After the sale of several properties for a mixed commercial development, it would come in with a profit of more than $400,000.

Council went with option one which included 10,810 square metres of parkland with a potential taxpayer cost of $2M. Council also voted against selling the two northern most city owned properties on Abbott for $1.7M. The money raised by the sale would have helped to offset the cost of the park.

Council's decision also went against one of its eight parameters, financial viability.

The parameter, set out by council in January stated, "complete the development with no additional tax impact and consider development options which result in a financial return to the city for further reinvestment."

Clearly, that was no longer a concern.

"Suddenly either making money on the thing or breaking even is no longer a factor with me and we have heard that from other councillors today," said Mayor, Walter Gray.

"At one time I felt all taxpayers in the community had paid to buy the properties over the years so I would be on record as some others are that to sell two of the lakeshore lots would be wrong."

Both decisions brought cheers from about 100 people in council chambers - most carrying signs that read "I Want More Park"

One of those was Michael Neill a longtime proponent of what was option one.

Initially, council voted to go along with the staff recommendation (Option four), but it was defeated 5-3 with only councillors Luke Stack, Gail Given and Gray voting in favour.

"When the first round of votes went and I thought oh my God, it came down to three votes and it only needed one more and I couldn't believe it," said Neill.

"Then I thought the worst thing that could happen was have them say we'll do nothing. That would have been the worst outcome so I am really glad they brought it back."

Neill says he is pleased council said no to selling the two northern most lots on Abbott Street to pay for the project.

"I am just so glad that council took the time to look at the benefit of both (options). I couldn't be happier."

Staff had planned to come back to council in June with designs and rezoning applications had option four been agreed to with the rezoning process rolling out from July to October.

With option one now on the table, timelines may be extended slightly to allow for additional issues to be investigated.


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