Penticton is about to get an urban agricultural centre in its downtown core.
City council voted 6-1 Monday to support a proposal to construct the project at site of the old Nanaimo Hall, along with additional city paid parking.
The centre is slated to be designed, built and operated by the Downtown Penticton Association along with the Penticton Urban Agricultural Association, a local group of agricultural enthusiasts who have been trying to find a location for the idea for some time.
The mandate for the project, according to the two groups’ proposal, is to create a centre that is “a source of information and education to the public and schools” and a “hub for collaborative work among people running projects related to the development of a diverse and reliable local food supply” for the region.
According to the city’s director of operations Mitch Moroziuk, the proposal includes a prefabricated presentation centre, a teaching garden, a composting area and a xeriscaping area. The remaining portions of the site will be leveled off with gravel at a cost to the city of under $2,000 and used as lot requiring a paid parking-pass.
The project, said Moroziuk, is the only submission the city received after issuing an expression of interest requesting proposals for the lands located at Nanaimo Avenue and Ellis Street. Under a three-year licence agreement with the city, the PUAA and DPA will lease the land for $1 a year with a six-month termination clause allowing the city to pursue development proposals should they come along.
Originally the proposal included other items such as a hybrid-electric vehicle charging stalls, a paid parking ticket spitter and eight bicycle storage lockers, pushing the city’s total costs for the project to $35,000. But with the city’s tight budget, both staff and council preferred to have those items removed.
However, as the city is about to host the potentially annual GranFondo cycling event July 11 — with five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx expected to be participating — council will debate at its March 21 meeting whether the bike lockers will be installed at a cost of approximately $12,000.
Only Coun. Dan Albas voted against the project, saying he is against any unnecessary spending until the city’s fiscal situation improves.
“We have had a very tough budget year and I have voted against a considerable amount of items,” said Albas. “I just feel that right now we as a municipality (know that our) cupboards are bare and I’m just reflecting that with my voting.”