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Kelowna  

8. Tourist centre tempest

For about a decade, Tourism Kelowna has looked for a suitable downtown location for its tourist information centre.

The highway location was no longer viable, as the travel habits of tourists changed. Several locations were considered, including one in a revamped City Park. All were rejected.

That changed in 2014, when a site was identified at the foot of Queensway between Stuart and Kerry parks. Opposition sprang up almost immediately, culminating with a raucous public hearing in January.

More than 200 people, divided between supporters an opponents of the plan, crammed into council chambers to voice their disapproval or praise over the contentious development.

While some weren't swayed by the need for a downtown tourist centre, many were opposed to any structure along the waterfront, while others suggested the land was zoned as parkland and should not be touched. Still others spoke up in favour of placing the tourist centre where tourists are – at the "epicentre" of tourism in the community. The crowd was split almost down the middle on the issue.

The heated debate got downright nasty as council and city staff had their character and integrity challenged. They were told they were breaking the law, had a conflict of interest and had not done their job of protecting the interests of residents.

After more than five hours, council voted 7-1 in favour. Coun. Tracy Gray called it the missing link between City Park and Stuart Park.

Unlike many who said parks are for grass and trees, Coun. Luke Stack suggested parks are enhanced by buildings.

There is still fight left in some against the single-storey building, which will also feature a mezzanine.

Despite simmering opposition, construction work has already begun on the $2.8-million project. It's expected to open sometime in late spring or early summer of 2018.



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