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Writer-s-Bloc

Will of people dismissed

The People versus City Hall – Part Two

By Dianne Varga

Yesterday, I described how city council’s greenlighting of the takeover of public parkland has disappointed and angered the public. 

I told you I’d made a presentation at the public hearing that examined the city’s applications to change the zoning of Queensway Jetty and its designation in the Official Community Plan. I said the zoning and designation decisions were illegal.

Let's look at those zoning and OCP re-designations one by one.

Zoning Bylaw 8000 describes a land use that's specific to Tourism Kelowna. A Market Office is a kind of premises used for tourism related administrative or promotional purposes by industry associations that include but are not limited to Tourism BC, Tourism Kelowna, and the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

In the case of a tourist office such as Tourism Kelowna’s that intends to be a venue for small events promoting the region, or for exhibitions promoting the history and culture of the region as part of destination marketing, a secondary related land use would be Market Community Space. 

This refers to the use of premises for activities, meetings, presentations, and informational/public outreach open houses. 

As a principal land use, any non-governmental office must be located in a commercial zone (or in an Industrial or comprehensive development zone, neither of which are relevant in the circumstance of the Queensway Jetty).

The OCP, which is Bylaw 10500, likewise expects to find commercial ventures that promote local tourism to be assigned to Commercial zones.

But city hall did not respect its own bylaws. Saying that the principal land uses that applied to the tourist office were Community Recreation Services, Exhibition and Convention Facilities, Government Services, and Private Club, the parkland was zoned Major Institutional and re-designated Educational/Major Institutional.

This would be laughable if it were not so 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 hall planner assigned to this file?  I think not. 

I believe that had the city properly rezoned and re-designated public parkland to commercial, they would have risked even greater public wrath and possible failure of the two applications that were brought to hearing.

  • Will Kelowna’s city council now reverse their decision and observe their statutory obligation to respect their own bylaws? 
  • Will they finally listen to the people and rescind their approval of the applications? 
  • Will they acquiesce to 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 [Queensway Jetty] was the best place.”

Dianne Varga is an Okanagan activist and writer.

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