It’s disappointing to hear people calling their neighbours that disagree with city council’s decision to convert about 110,000 square feet of Skaha Lake Park from open space to commercial use names like ‘naysayer’ or any other label. The majority of people, including city council, are well-intentioned and care deeply about the community.
Whether we agree with council or not, name-calling doesn’t solve anything.
Raising questions about whether business is welcomed in the city or blaming anyone that challenges council isn’t going to help solve the problems either.
The first problem is that it’s a well-established custom when a municipality alienates or converts parkland or open space to some form of commercial use the public gets to decide. It’s also obvious that the process council followed is flawed in that the public’s opinion, for and against, was not sought in a broad and methodical fashion ahead of the decision being made.
Council ignored or chose to dismiss the input it received at the June 29, 2015 meeting, didn’t listen to the message being sent during at least two rallies against the conversion and chose to carry on. While not everyone in Penticton is against the conversion of the open space to commercial use, it is the actions of council that have led to the lawsuit that has been filed.
From a basic economic perspective it’s also not surprising. The initial annual rental is about $60,000 per annum for the land that is proposed to be converted. Just about anyone can figure out that it will take hundreds of years to accumulate the capital needed to acquire comparable replacement land.
One report from the City said it would cost over $25 million to acquire the remaining land in the South Beach.
I doubt building a waterslide will significantly affect Penticton’s economy, improve business opportunities or enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors.
The business decision to proceed is based on a flawed public consultation process, eliminates a unique open space that can currently be used for free, provides for no replacement of open space and results in an almost priceless community asset being unusable about 10 out of 12 months of the year.
Council was the one that made the decision that caused the events that have transpired and calling our neighbours names won’t fix these problems.