Mayor Andrew Jakubeit responds, in detail, to 16 questions on waterslide deal

The following 16 questions specifically relating to Skaha Lake Park were forwarded to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit on Aug. 14. His answers were not shortened or edited.

1. Why not hold a referendum? In the past the City has held referendums on issues such as the correctional centre and SOEC, even though they didn’t have to.

Firstly, outdoor amusement (waterslide) is a permitted use in our dedicated park by-law and current zoning so what was being proposed is already allowed.

The SOEC referendum was required as it dealt with having to borrow millions to build the facility. The correctional centre referendum dealt with people’s fears and perceptions of crime and personal safety relative to a prison in their backyard.

Secondly council was elected to make difficult decisions on behalf of the community, and if we went to referendum on every politically sensitive issue or opportunity, nothing would get accomplished or development and growth would stagnate.

2. Along those same lines, why not have a longer and larger public consultation process for a project the City must have known would cause controversy? Did you not see it coming?

We did have 30 days for engagement, but in hindsight perhaps a longer period for people to absorb the proposal and research the concept might have helped reduce the amount of misinformation.

3. What would you say the percentage is of yes (in favour) to nos (opposed) in the community on this issue? Based on what?

It is always difficult to gauge public sentiment on a given issue, particularly in this case when there has been so much passion exhibited by those in the community.

I have been listening to those who are opposed to the project, but also come across many people who strongly support it as well. Also, despite rocky starts, I have seen our community grow to love new amenities like the Lakeshore Drive walkway and South Okanagan Events Centre. I’d love to harness the energy people expend on either side to come up with innovative solutions… just think how far ahead our community would be.

4. Did you anticipate this kind of divide in the community between those in favour and those against?

What disappoints me is that people are very entrenched in their opinion; some based on misinformation, but worse yet are the personalized attacks towards another person’s opinion or thoughts on the project.

When a person voices their concern or support they should have their opinion respected and not be bullied, threatened or made to feel that they are inferior. Everyone’s desires for the community and their vision for our future are different, and we should feel safe to voice it.

Just because Council didn’t vote the way you wanted them to, doesn’t mean your concerns or position wasn’t heard or we’re wrong and you’re right. On some issues we will have to agree to disagree.

5. Can you elaborate on the deal you signed with Trio? Was it the full 29-year lease or will it be rolled out in phases? What protections does it contain for the City if something goes wrong?

It is a 29-year lease with several “conditions precedent” that has to be met before each phase can proceed. Trio Marine must now present detailed drawings, and funding commitment confirmations before set timelines for the project to continue.

The detailed submission must also match what was included in the agreement (i.e. Marina size, restaurant size, waterpark size and amenities must match…they must expand to 100 slips in the marina, restaurant must be 1360-1840 square feet, and five waterslides along with the minimum budgeted amounts outlined in the agreement).

Another condition is working with stakeholder groups within the park on relocating the splash pad, amenities and paddleboard storage shed. The relocation of splash pad, washroom and paddleboard shed must be constructed at the developers cost prior to existing amenities being decommissioned. Before construction is to begin, a bond equal to the value of construction will be given to the City to protect us from something arising during construction so we would have money to address it.

Should the waterpark run into financial difficulties years down the road, the funding partner would have two years to find a suitable assignee to continue operations, or the assets revert to the City.  We feel these measures go above and beyond to protect the interests of the taxpayer.

6. Is there a way out of the deal if one side has a change of heart or if opponents successfully challenge it in court? If so, what is the escape clause and how much would it cost taxpayers?

The City has taken steps to protect our interests. Currently the agreement signed between Trio Marine Group and the City outline what further steps need to be completed and sets a timeline, framework and budget that must be fulfilled by Trio Marine or the agreement becomes void.

7. How many Legacy trees are going to be removed? What will happen to their plaques?

Yes, some trees will have to be relocated or removed, and Trio Marine group is committed to working towards preserving and incorporating as many of the existing trees as possible into their designs. Trees are important to the public and during the permitting process both the City and Ministry of Environment will be addressing the requirement for trees being relocated and being part of the park design requirements. Every effort will be made for the Legacy trees within the park to still have their donor recognition plaques.

8. What percentage park space will be used up? How solid is this number?

We have calculated that the project includes 11 per cent of the available green space. An estimate including the current concrete, parking and marina building/operations grounds that exists today, then the footprint is 19-20 per cent of the park. Trio Marine is also considering in the final designs allowing greater public access within their park much like Loco Landing has free access throughout their amusement park. The number will not increase and we are working with Trio Marine to open up as much to the public as possible.

9. What is the estimates cost of relocating the splash park?

The splash park, which is over 20-years-old, will get relocated within the park at Trio Marine’s expense. They will work with service clubs that originally built the splash pad for a suitable location. Technology and functionality of waterpark equipment has improved over the past 20 years so the public will benefit from a new water play feature enhancement and it will be 100 per cent free to the public.

10. What about the birds, fish and animals who reside in the creek beside the splash pad area?

Riparian legislation and Ministry of Environment have strict guidelines that Trio Marine group will have to abide by in their proposal coming to fruition.  We haven’t changed the zoning… it is still a park with kids playing and laughing, the creek is not proposed to be touched.

11. What will happen to parking?

Boat trailer parking will be shifted so it isn’t right on the water, and the existing southeast parking lot will get expanded.

12. Has a detailed environmental study been done?

Depending on permits required, Trio Marine will have to submit detailed drawings to the City, Federal Government (Department of Fisheries and Oceans), Provincial Government (Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural resources, Ministry of Environment) and Interior Health. Each regulatory body will have different requirements and/or studies Trio will have to comply with to gain approvals.

13. What are the revenue forecasts for the city? (layout on page)

If we look at 2019 as the first full year of operation of Marina, Restaurant, and Waterpark

Marina/Restaurant          Waterpark

$31,139 lease                $56,792 lease
$23,122 taxes                $42,171 taxes
$55,706                     $98,864

Starting 2020 there will be revenue sharing from the GROSS revenue:

Restaurant: sliding scale that increases based on sales from 3.5% of sales $0-$375K to 6% of sales $675K-plus

Marina: sliding scale that increases based on sales from 7% of sales $0-$625K to 12% of sales $1.225M-plus

Waterpark: sliding scale based on sales from 7% of sales $0-1.375M to 12% of sales $2.775M-plus

Assuming the Restaurant had sales of $250,000?x 3.5%= $8,750

Assuming the Marina had sales of $500,000??x 7%= $35,000

Assuming the Waterpark had sales of $500,000?x 7%= $35,000

$78,750

With this conservative estimate the City would receive in one year: $55,706

$98,864

$78,450

$233,020

14. What do you see as the downfalls and benefits of this project?

Our strategy for residential recruitment, business growth and investment has been actioned and leveraged to create Penticton as a premier destination to live, work and play. Having another amenity for young families or for the grandkids to enjoy is a good thing.

The only potential downfall is that part of the proposal is seasonal (4 months) and if we have 3 weeks of heavy rain that could hamper the amount of visitors; however we more often have very predicable warm and sunny weather.

Even with the current marina and restaurant, Trio Marine group employs 40 people and is expected to create 200 jobs when in full operation. While most of the jobs are seasonal a lot will go to college and school age students, attracting and retaining youth and providing a great opportunity for job training.

This partnership also provides a substantial revenue stream that we can use to acquire and improve other park spaces and aligns with council’s strategic priority of waterfront enhancement.

15. What would you have done differently on this project if you were to start over today?

I think the current model of public engagement needs enhancement as traditional methods are outdated with technological advancements.

Many felt they did not get the necessary information in a timely manner, had opportunities to have their concerns or ideas addressed by the City or developer, or felt that they had enough time to absorb the concept.

This isn’t just about utilizing social media but about the opportunity to develop more of a one to one relationship. It is intimidating to participate publicly regardless of what side of an issue you believe in.

I wish we could have harnessed some of the passions for park space into ideas to improve and create better utilization for public spaces in general. We are committing to improve and create better engagement with our citizens.

16. What’s your message to those who are dead set against the project?

What is being proposed is a water park…not a pipeline, not a prison, not chemical plant.

While I can appreciate some like Penticton just the way it is and will fight change every step of the way, we need growth and development and we need to provide amenities and options for younger families.

Studies have shown that people who move their families to Penticton have typically experienced this community earlier on in life – during a childhood vacation or weekend getaway in their early 20s. This project will attract new visitors to our area, and has the potential to recruit new residents as part of the incredible Penticton experience.

Why are we concerned about growth?

Our growth rate is under 1 per cent and if we want to address infrastructure shortfalls, aging facilities and escalating cost pressures, we need to expand our tax base and revenue streams; this is accomplished through sustainable growth.

For years we have only concentrated on where we (Council) can cut instead of where we can sustainably grow revenues; but now we are looking forward, committing to creating a vibrant waterfront community. This has meant making some difficult decisions, and while some may feel their faith in government is shaken, I humbly submit that Council did not make this decision lightly, we put provisions in place to protect the interests of the City, and our decision was based on our beliefs that this will benefit the community.