This is a tale of two cities. It was recently announced that the United Church in Vernon has sold 2 1/2 acres of desirable waterfront property to the City of Vernon at well below market value. They did this so that the land would not fall into the hands of developers, but would be preserved for public use as parkland.
Meanwhile here in Penticton our city council proposes to give up existing valuable waterfront parkland to developers for development supposedly to increase tourism and generate revenue.
It was also recently reported that our city council has acquired a parcel of land from a developer, Robin Agur that is in close proximity to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. That land is directly across the street from the baseball field property that the city proposed to lease out for development of a hotel possibly housing the casino currently resident in the Penticton Lakeside Resort.
The Agur property is the site that should have been used for the proposed hotel in the first place, but without any city involvement. As we all know the leasing of the ball field did not occur because a covenant on that land required a referendum if the use of the land was to be changed.
And we all know how our mayor hates referendums, as they are so democratic and can ruin the most ingenious plans. The reason for the land acquisition was not stated, and I doubt that it was transacted at below market cost.
The property that Mr. Agur sold to the city was property that he purchased several years ago to expand his existing hotel. This never occurred because it was not economic at the time. Perhaps the city knows more about the economics of land development and hotels than a successful developer like Mr. Agur.
Perhaps they will lease this newly purchased land to a developer at a nominal fee to construct the hotel that they so eagerly desire to increase convention business at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre. The hotel may be economic if constructed on subsidized land similar to the economics of water-slides.
Let us examine the results to date of the city’s efforts to improve convention traffic at the trade centre.
It appears they they have so far succeeded in increasing the competition for convention traffic. The Penticton Lakeside Resort has announced that they will be increasing their convention facilities by using the space previously occupied by the casino on site as they are not extending the lease to the casino. This has perhaps resulted from talks between the city and the casino creating uncertainty that the casino will remain at the Lakeside.
When you poke someone in the eye with a stick, it can result in unknown and unpleasant consequences. While, in the absence of any concrete information from the city on these dealings one can only speculate that the casino may end up on native land now that the new bridge will provide improved access. I believe when the casino was approved for Penticton in the late 1990s, one was also approved for the Penticton Indian Reserve, but it did not proceed.
If the casino relocates outside the city limits, will Penticton lose the ongoing yearly casino grants that help fund the South Okanagan Events Centre? It appears that anything is possible under the current administration so stay tuned.