At the special council meeting on June 29 there is repeated reference by council members to the overwhelmingly positive comments received about the waterpark (a.k.a. waterslides) prior to the public hearing — “oozing support,” “overjoyed,” and “nothing but positive feedback.”
Penticton city council was aware at least as early as April, 2014 that waterslides were to be included in the Skaha Lake Marina redevelopment proposal. The public did not learn about the waterslide component until detailed legal agreements were brought to the city council meeting of May 19, 2015 — more than one year later.
According to statements made by several of the council members during the public hearing, they had received almost all positive comments in those many months prior to the official public hearing. Comments they picked up from “my peers” (quote from Coun. Picton), from around the breakfast table and at the farmer’s market. Then the public hearing of June 29 resulted in comments from the public that were “quite overwhelmingly negative” (quote by Coun. Watt). But those comments from the public against the inclusion of waterslides in Skaha Lake Park, during an official public hearing that lasted more than three hours, were not enough to change the minds of council. All seven voiced their support for the waterslides and five of seven voted to approve the full-meal deal without any changes immediately following the public hearing. Not even any “massaging” of the proposal (quote by Mayor Jakubeit).
Do you get it? The members of city council were in favour of the Skaha Lake Marina proposal, including the inclusion of the waterslides when they entered the public hearing. Nothing the public came to say would change their minds. There was no disagreement voiced at the public hearing that waterslides would be a valuable summer amenity for city residents and tourists alike. The objection clearly expressed by the public on June 29 was the use of city parkland for the commercial waterslide component of the Skaha Lake Marina redevelopment proposal.
The waterslides should not be built on city -owned parkland. Period. Massaging or no massaging. This proposal should never have been allowed to proceed to the advanced stage it did without first seeking comprehensive input from the public. This action by city council is not bold. It is shortsighted.
I agree with Loraine Stephanson and Charles Armstrong (letters to the editor, Western News) that a referendum is justified to obtain real and meaningful public input on this very important decision.