Threats of legal action, protests hang over Penticton council after reaffirming decision on water slides

Threats of more protests and legal action now hang over Penticton city council, after it agreed Wednesday to stay the course at Skaha Lake Park.

Council emerged from a special closed-door meeting and voted 6-1 in favour of continuing with its plan to sign a deal with Trio Marine Group to redevelop a corner of the site to include a water park.

The lone vote in opposition was cast by Campbell Watt, one of only two members of city council who explained publicly why they voted the way they did.

“I have a few reasons, some of which I won’t be able to get into because they’re based on legal issues, and then my listening to the community and wanting to further investigate the whole option and idea,” Watt said.

“I’m not suggesting that in two months I wouldn’t vote for the project; I just wanted a little extra time to do a little more due diligence and research.”

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit only a month ago voted against the deal, saying then he would have liked more time to consider it, but has since changed his mind.

“My concern in the past was not to do with the development itself, it was sort of the footprint and some of the logistics around some of that agreement, how we could create more of a park-like environment,” he explained.

“I thought that would be a little bit easier to address post-contract rather than halfway through the project.”

He expects to sign the agreement with Trio Marine Group sometime within the next several days. Once the deal is in place, Trio would then embark on a series of upgrades, first by expanding the marina and building a new restaurant, then putting up the water slides in 2017.

The company will be required to post a bond at each stage equivalent to construction costs in case the project goes sideways, the mayor explained, after clarifying the water slides are expected to take up 11 per cent of existing green space in the park.

Jakubeit also acknowledged council has yet to receive detailed business plans or guarantees from Trio that it has financing in place, but expects those will come after the 29-year lease agreement, which guarantees the city market rates and a cut of revenue from the $4.3-million development, is signed.

Following the vote, a series of residents spent the next 40 minutes criticizing council’s decision and the perceived lack of public consultation.

Opponents said afterwards they were disappointed, but not surprised, by council’s decision to stay the course, and will continue battling against the water park.

“We have retained a lawyer. On his advice there probably will be some legal documents served (against the city) today or in the near future,” said Bill Duff, spokesman for the newly formed Concerned Penticton Residents Association.

Cliff Martin, another association member and organizer of last week’s rally outside City Hall, said volunteers are still gathering names on a petition against the water park.

Anyone wanting to sign the petition or join the CPRA can speak with volunteers who will be stationed at Skaha Lake Park every day from 5-7 p.m., he added.

Martin noted he’s also planning another rally in front of City Hall on Aug. 4, just prior to council’s next scheduled meeting.

Jakubeit said the opposition hasn’t gone unnoticed since it’s “the talk of the town,” but said council is making the tough decisions “we’ve been tasked to make on behalf of the community.”

“I think what’s frustrating for me, personally, is everyone is very entrenched in their position, but not really understanding all the facts and getting themselves informed and actually walking the site to see what the footprint would look like or getting some pictures or actually seeing the proposal,” he said.

The mayor also rejected calls for a referendum because waters slides are considered an allowable use of park space.

“I think the conversation would be significantly different if what was being proposed was an apartment building or other commercial enterprise that is not consistent with being an allowable use in a park,” said Jakubeit.

Trio Marine Group could not be reached for comment.