Local group questions 'giving away' valuable city land

RCMP site lease slammed

A grass roots Kelowna group is taking the city to task for its decision to enter into a 99-year lease to develop the former RCMP detachment site on Doyle Avenue.

The city announced last month it had entered into the long-term lease with RISE Developments for $7 million.

The company would in turn construct a mixed-use commercial-residential complex on the site, while the city would use $4.3 million of the lease price to construct 6,000 square feet of community amenity space, an extension of the Artwalk and a Civic Plaza.

Strategic land development manager Graham Hood later clarified in a letter to the editor the city "will receive $7 million for the initial 80-year lease, with additional compensation due at future fair market value for the final 19 years."

The Legacy Group, formed last fall by a prominent group of Kelowna residents, calls the decision irresponsible, especially during a global pandemic and with "outdated" information given recent changes to the downtown core.

The group says after factoring in the the $4.3 million the city will spend on amenity space on the site, it will be left with just $2.7 million, or $2,272 a month over 99 years.

"This is city land and it should not be given away," the group says in a news release.

"We are disappointed that there appeared to be an absence of consideration for a comprehensive vision for the four city-owned properties in the area, namely The RCMP site at 350 Doyle Avenue, Kelowna Community Theatre, city hall parking lot, and the Memorial Arena.

"In our opinion, this is a virtual giveaway based on an outdated, limited Civic Precinct Plan."

The claim the city's community consultation for the Civic Precinct Plan conducted five years ago shows a small number of residents took part in the process, while their group has more than 600 people concerned about where the plan is heading.

"With the benefit of hindsight, there is no rush to dispose of this legacy property, just to enable the city to complete a walkway and a civic square, with developer’s capital. This will limit future councils’ ability to envision something greater.

"With the multitude of new factors at play and a more comprehensive citizen engagement, one can only imagine what could have been envisioned. As a citizen, do you feel 100 rental units is the best use of this key piece of civic property?"

They are urging city council to revisit the lease for the RCMP property, and re-engage the community to create a "greater vision for this iconic piece of land within our downtown core."

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