Info centre fight drags on

Former Kelowna resident Dianne Varga has not given up her fight to stop construction of a tourist information centre on the city's waterfront.

Varga has taken her battle to the BC Ombudsperson's office in Victoria.

In January, council voted 7-1 at a packed public hearing to approve Tourism Kelowna's application to use the site at the foot of Queensway for the new $2.8-million tourist info centre.

Varga, who now lives in Penticton, has been mounting opposition since the decision was made, claiming the site is parkland and should remain as such.

The ombudsperson has been asked to look into zoning and land-use designations, the adequacy of information provided to the public and the granting of a non-market lease to a business organization.

The investigations come as a tender put out by Tourism Kelowna for construction of the new info centre is set to close Monday. Tourism Kelowna is hoping to break ground before the end of the year.

In January, the city released lease information on the proposal, saying: "High public interest in this project and the city’s desire to be transparent prompted this additional communication effort."

That information showed the city would enter into a 29-year non-market lease with the Tourism Kelowna Society for the 303-square-metre property, which would revert back to the city at no cost at the lease's end.

The city said it felt the building would provide desired amenities benefiting locals and tourists.

The project is also backed by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, which said earlier this year it supports Tourism Kelowna's move to a high-profile centre closer to the downtown area.

"An energetic, centrally located tourism centre ... dispensing good will and vital information will create a lively and animated destination for our visitors and residents alike," the chamber said in a January press release.

Chamber president Tom Dyas said at the time the project's reduced size and a larger setback from the boardwalk were "well-considered and positive responses to public input asking for uninterrupted access to the lakefront."

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