Since looking into the city’s process on the 29-year-plus controversial lease of Skaha Park more closely, I find the process was poorly administrated.
History: Back in 2002, council put forward a Park Amendment Bylaw which would have allowed the construction of a second hotel on Okanagan waterfront. The amendment was strongly protested by a group of residents under the banner POP, Protect Our Parks. The zoning amendment was withdrawn but POP appealed for a right to vote on any future similar use of public parks.
The appeal was heard and a referendum question on a new parks bylaw was put the the voters in the municipal election of 2002.
All the city parks were listed in the referendum, the referendum brought in Parks By Law 2002-49.
The question therefore is, prior to entering into negotiations with Trio, did the
administration seek out a legal opinion on the history and intent of Bylaw 2002-49?
I have not seen any evidence that they did.
Back in 2002/03 a protocol agreement was signed between the Penticton Indian Band and the city. The intent of that agreement was to strengthen the city’s relations with the PIB on any issue that may impact each parties interest (i.e. land use). The PIB had every right to intervene into the negotiations between the city and Trio, because, the First Nations have had a historical relationship with Okanagan and Skaha Lake (Dog Lake) for hundreds of years.
The city should have recognized that historical connection under the protocol agreement before entering into any negotiations with Trio.
Now they are in a situation where the PIB could challenge the city’s right to disturb what the PIB claim is an historical First Nations site. Could this result in litigation if the PIB prevent the lease from going ahead?
Conversely, had these two crucial steps been taken, and the legal opinion supported the city’s interest to lease and the PIB gave their approval on the use of the park land, there were still other significant parts that the administration should have sought answers to prior to commencing any negotiations.
The city administration should have sent out for an independent audit to demonstrate to council whether the projected returns for the city put forward by Trio would warrant giving them a 29-year-plus lease. Specifically, the financial returns versus the loss of park land.
Of note, the lease was signed by the mayor in August of this year based estimated returns on the lease done in house by city staff. Do city staff know anything about commercial returns on waterslides?
If the answer from the independent audit was favourable then the next step by administration would be to ask for a bond to cover any financial risk that the city may face over the lease.
No bond was ever asked of Trio. No staff time should be put to the negotiating table without a security bond being in place.
Should I mention Eckhardt Avenue?
To summarize: The approach that the city administration took in negotiating this very controversial lease has ended up in a legal challenge by many of us who are paying their wages. I firmly believe that the city administration should never have allowed any negotiations to proceed without having these four major issues in place before council had made their decision.
1.) the legal opinion on bylaw 2002-49
2.) a referral to the PIB on the historical Land use.
3.) an independent financial audit and
4.) a request for substantial bonding to cover any financial risk to the city.
Personally I’m offended that any council would even consider to lease this pristine public beach property for this intrusive almighty dollar-driven commercial development.