Save Skaha Park Society expects city’s response to lawsuit soon

Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2016 5:39 pm

Opponents of a planned commercial development in Skaha Lake Park say they’re expecting the City of Penticton to finally respond to their lawsuit by the end of the month.

The Save Skaha Park Society filed papers with the B.C. Supreme Court in September 2015 in a bid to squash a 29-year lease agreement between the city and Trio Marine Group, which intends to build waterslides on a corner of the site.

Society spokesman Gerry Karr said Thursday the city’s lawyer promised a reply by the end of February that he fully expects will reject the claims of his group, which nonetheless remains undeterred.

“We’ve been so encouraged by the many thousands that have supported us. In fact, we feel a sense of duty to pursue this as far as necessary,” he said.

Karr is still holding out hope the city will find a way to scrap the Trio deal and avoid the need for an expensive court battle for which taxpayers will be on the hook.

But the final analysis is there’s a democratic principle at stake here that has aroused the anger of 5,000 residents and thousands of tourists,” he added.

“We know that’s not trivial. That concern among our citizenry has to be respected.”

Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said collecting all of the information required to respond to the lawsuit has taken longer than expected, but confirmed a response to the lawsuit is expected soon.

While the project is still a go from the city’s standpoint, he’s hoping all sides will sit down together to see if there’s a way to avoid going to court.

“I think the next step really is for Trio in particular, since they are the developer, to meet with the society to discuss some concerns and if there are any opportunities for resolution or common points to help them determine how to move forward,” said Jakubeit.

“I don’t think anyone wants to go through another summer of protests and tension. It would be nice if we can get some understanding of how we’re progressing and to what degree.”

The lawsuit outlines 10 ways in which the City of Penticton allegedly ran afoul of various provincial laws when it inked the 29-year deal with Trio.

Meanwhile, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association has also stepped into the fray, penning a letter to Jakubeit claiming it was unfair to cite the lawsuit as a reason to block a society member’s bid to sit on a committee that’s been tasked with drawing up a new parks master plan.

“In a democracy, it is vital that citizens feel able to express critical or dissenting views (through lawsuits or other means) without fear of being shut out of the democratic process in the future, or of reprisals of other kinds,” policy director Michael Vonn wrote in the letter, which the society released Thursday.