A non-disclosure agreement signed with the City of Penticton may have been at the root of Trio Marine Group’s refusal to be forthcoming about their plans for Skaha Park.
In a November interview with the Western News, Trio Marine spokesman Rob Campbell said their silence came at the request of the city.
“We had to sign an agreement with the city and they just want to make sure that when this rolls out it is done the right way, with the least amount of backlash,” said Campbell, who also noted that Trio had hoped to go to the public after news broke of their obtaining the marina lease, accompanied by rumours of a waterslide or hotel project.
“We were planning to be able to go to the public, have public meetings and open houses. But it was purely a timing thing,” said Campbell. “It has created all sorts of speculation and rumours, which was unfortunate, but we didn’t have any choice.”
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said he didn’t remember any such agreement coming before council.
“I am pretty sure I don’t remember that element of Skaha Marina park development proposals ever being discussed. We didn’t formally have a strategy how this was going to roll out,” said Jakubeit. Such an agreement, he added would have had to be requested by council.
“If staff inferred or put that as one of the conditions, it really should have come from direction from council,” said Jakubeit, who spoke with director of operations Mitch Moroziuk to confirm no “gag order” had been signed.
“To his knowledge, he doesn’t remember anything about not engaging the media,” said Jakubeit. “Staff did give us a heads up when this first started, saying they are planning on doing something on park land. It’s park land, so some people might have issue with that.”
The city has been negotiating with Trio Marine since Nov. 2013, when they were selected from four responses to the city’s May 2013 expression of interest request.
Documents attached to that request note “special consideration may be given to (proposals that include) intensive redevelopment of the site as a restaurant/hotel complex.”
According to a written statement from Roger Hulstein, Trio’s marketing co-ordinator, the company signed a non-disclosure agreement with the city during the request for proposal process.
“The document said we would work with City of Penticton and develop a plan for Skaha Lake Marina as well as the surrounding area. The NDA was in effect until there was factual information on the project and all details of the proposal were completed,” wrote Hulstein. “We agreed we would not inform the public of speculative information until all the agreements were in place.”
Hulstein wrote that once all of the legal, accounting and initial design work were completed, they started the public engagement process in May.
Jakubeit said that was where the city could have done a better job.
“We should have been more diligent with providing, or demanding, a more robust engagement plan, maybe 60 days instead of 30,” said Jakubeit. “We are looking into strategies for public engagement and how that should roll out. What mediums can we use to engage a broad cross-section of the community.”
Jakubeit said that council and staff are working to build a better team atmosphere and ensure more clarity of communication.
“It is not council’s job to micromanage what staff does,” said Jakubeit. “What they do full time is looking after the best interests of the community and the city and the corporation of the city. But at the end of the day, they take direction from council.
“It is very easy to sort of take liberties from time to time. The more we can ensure council is being engaged with management and the running of the city, I think the better outcome for all of us.”