The city’s deal with Trio Marine Group to have water slides built on public parkland isn’t sitting well with everybody.
“It took a lot of work to acquire all this park space. It’s a slap in the face to just go lease it out,” said resident Cliff Martin, who’s inviting residents that share his concern to attend a rally outside of city hall before the next regular meeting on July 20.
“We’ll see what happens on Monday (July 20),” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said. “And I just encourage the community to try and get themselves informed and not just go on the rumour mill; the coffee table talk, because it gets distorted.”
Jakubeit said frequently asked questions pertaining to the project are being addressed by the city through penticton.ca.
“The development is a park enhancement,” Jakubeit said. “It’s not like we’re putting a commercial dry cleaner or an apartment building. It is to complement the park and create it as a destination.”
Resident Hannah Hyland said she is not necessarily against the waterslides, just Trio’s plan to build them on public park space for the benefit of a few and not the general populace. She is encouraging people to show up wearing green to the rally on Monday and to sign a petition with over 600 signatures at goo.gl/oFpYR5.
The City of Penticton and Trio Marine Group both argue the project will bring about reciprocal benefits.
“We want to express that our project is about providing the people of Penticton and the guests of the city with an avenue to have fun and enjoy themselves,” reads a Trio press release. “The existing green space will be integrated into the design of the waterpark and preserved wherever possible. Furthermore, a portion of all profits brought in by the waterpark will go into funding green space in other areas of Penticton.”
Trio is also addressing concerns and common questions through their website www.skahalakemarina.com.
Regardless of the finer details, the resident at the head of Monday’s rally, Martin, wants to see the city hold a referendum before giving Trio the go-ahead.
“This is some of the most expensive real estate in Penticton and they just want to give it up so easy without public approval,” Martin said.
He added he’s expecting a strong turnout to the rally at city hall.
“We’re going to collect signatures to call for a binding referendum that the council cease and desist on all projects on public parks. They’re not their parks to develop without our permission. So we’ll see if this is a respectful mayor and council or not.”
Jakubeit didn’t completely rule out the possibility of holding a referendum, but said it would cost around $30,000.
“They’re very expensive, so that’s why you have a council to make some of these difficult decisions … if a referendum was held for every decision, development would come to a standstill.”
Roger Hulstein, Trio’s marketing co-ordinator, said he thinks most people in Penticton are in favour of the project, but he doesn’t think a referendum would be a good choice by council because of its high cost to the taxpayer.
Jakubeit said it could send a negative gesture towards other potential investors.
“If a developer wants to move forward and the minute there’s unrest in the community we automatically stop and change, that sends a signal to developers.”
He compared the project to LocoLanding, which he said is also a park enhancement for the city. Backlash is common in Penticton amid major changes, Jakubeit said, though the results often appease the critics. He said despite the negative feedback, he’s received a lot of positive support throughout the community.
To ensure compliance to the plan and adequate financing, the agreement with the city requires Trio to develop the site incrementally. Before Trio can begin construction on the water park, they agreed upon conditions to meet. One is the construction of a new splash pad which has to be built and operational before the existing pad is decommissioned – one detail which city staff and Trio have both said was misconceived.
“The Trio group is wanting to be a good corporate citizen in trying to look at (Skaha Lake Park’s) footprint in how they can redesign and create more of a park atmosphere,” Jakubeit said. “How that’s going to unfold I’m not sure.”