Major upgrades planned for Skaha Lake Park encountered some major obstacles on Monday.
On the same day the city was served with a lawsuit from a citizens’ group opposed to a planned water park, council cited unforeseen obstacles a s it granted Trio Marine Group a one-year extension to finalize an agreement to operate a marina and restaurant there.
According to a report by director of operations Mitch Moroziuk, the Penticton Indian Band has requested an environmental and archaeological impact study on the lands, including park space that would accommodate waterslides and a miniature golf course.
Moroziuk said a second concern is a three-way lease agreement for the marina between the city, Trio and province of B.C. Correspondence had just been received and more time was required to review and execute the lease, Moroziuk said.
“I’d certainly have liked some closure on this sooner, (but) given the circumstances that have come forward — a late lease from the province, a letter from the PIB — we have to give it some serious consideration,” Mayor Andrew Jakubeit told council, without elaborating on “clarity problems” within the deal.
PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger said he supports the expanded marina and restaurant but has concerns about the waterpark because it could go over top of a burial site.
“The place down there (Skaha Park) was part of our timber claim. A long time ago that was part of our reserve lands,” Kruger said in an interview with The Herald.
“Our Syilx people used to live there. If you look at old city maps from 1910 and 1911, it was always reserve land, right up to where Dairy Queen on Carmi Avenue is today. It used to be a swamp back then, our people lived close to the water. We actually got moved over towards the Western part (of the Valley). We definitely need to be included, it has to be a consent-based thing.”
Council was previously warned of this possibility.
At a public meeting in June, Tom Siddon, a local resident and former Indian affairs minister, suggested council conduct an environmental study and consultation with local First Nations before proceeding.
Coun. Helena Konanz said it was her understanding an environmental study had already been completed, but Moroziuk explained the initial study was for possible contaminants and the PIB is now looking for something more in-depth.
When asked who will pay for the cost of the studies, Jakubeit replied, “It’s yet to be determined, but the developer will bear much of that.”
Council eventually voted 6-1 in favour of the extension with Tarik Sayeed opposed.
Trio now has an additional year to get its paperwork in order.
Moroziuk acknowledged that a “detailed financing plan” was to be submitted by Oct. 1 and nothing had yet been received as of Sept. 28.
“The agreement is now amended and (the financing plan) would not have to come until Oct. 1, 2016,” he added.
Earlier in the day, city officials were notified of a lawsuit brought forward by the Save Skaha Park Society that outlines 10 ways in which the city allegedly ran afoul of provincial laws when it signed a lease agreement with Trio that would allow it to build water slides on what is now green space inside the park.
Jakubeit declined comment on the lawsuit Monday, stating it’s a court matter.