Opponents pack meeting

Up to 80 people opposed to a proposed amphitheatre at Vernon's Okanagan College campus packed a public meeting Tuesday evening to ensure their side was heard.

Almost every hand in the room was raised when professional facilitator Alison Moore asked who wanted to take part in a breakout session on how the neighbourhood would be affected. After that, the other sessions were cancelled.

The project has been proposed by the non-profit Okanagan Summer Festival Society at an estimated cost of five to $10 million which would be raised through private donation. Preliminary plans show the covered entertainment venue would accommodate up to 5,500 people and sit in a coulee on the campus with a spectacular view of Kalamalka Lake.

“It shouldn't be here because we don't want the noise in our neighbourhood, we don't want the parking problems, we don't want traffic congestion,” said Joan Rowan, spokesperson for the neighbourhood group opposed to the project. “We think the gully should be saved as a gully and not destroyed by building an amphitheatre in it, and building an amphitheatre would destroy the gully.”

Diane Bond, the society’s managing director, believes the north-south aspect of the coulee would insulate nearby residents from much of the sound, but Rowan disagreed.

“Funtastic (slo-pitch tournament and music festival), which operates on the DND land which is a long way from here, we hear it very clearly when they're on, so we know that we'd hear it,” Rowan insisted.

Bond addressed noise concerns at the start of the meeting, explaining the topography of the site had been chosen for its ability to contain sound.

“I don't expect you to believe us, I expect you to believe our acoustical engineers,” Bond told the group.

Vancouver-based sound consultants had been hired to conduct tests in the summer with a report due around Christmas time, Bond said. “They will make recommendations to the architect and to the society if there are problems.”

During an interview before the meeting, Bond said an amphitheatre was “an amenity that we really need here in the Okanagan.

“There is no major outdoor performing venue. There are some winery venues but they are under 1,000 in terms of capacity and we need something larger that will appeal to visitors as well as residents.”

Meanwhile, Rowan said opponents would not be convinced the amphitheatre project was a good idea.


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