Penticton has officially passed the puck on nine city-owned lots on Eckhardt Avenue, after approving the land sale Monday as the final play toward building sports tourism capacity in town.
Council approved the sale of 903 to 969 Eckhardt Ave. to 0922883 B.C. Ltd. for the purchase price of $925,000, making way for a seven-storey building featuring a dormitory for the Okanagan Hockey School and other commercial entities.
Before voting on the matter, council entertained delegations, including one from Laila Parsons. She told council she wanted “to stop the sale of city-owned land,” noting residents should have a say in who the land goes to and for how much.
“I feel the land sale should be put on hold until Penticton taxpayers can get informed,” she said, taking issue with fences and equipment on site before the sale was finalized.
“I feel if we waited five years, the assessment would go up. Why don’t we just wait? Everybody wants to know what’s the rush? Why are we rushing this?”
Mayor Dan Ashton said that the developer had been conducting soil testing on site, which required some drilling equipment placed on site. Given that, Ashton said he approved fencing be erected on the land, although requests from the proponents to place additional machinery on site were denied.
Coun. Mike Pearce defended the sale, suggesting that selling land that could then be taxed on land value immediately and then on improvements in five years frees up the city to purchase other lands that are currently depressed in value.
Nick Bevanda, a principal with CEI Architecture, spoke in favour of the project, noting how valuable the dormitory project will be to Okanagan Hockey School and Academy.
“The sale at market value will bring revenue to the city,” he said. “It’s a positive thing, and will generate a number of jobs.”
Coun. John Vassilaki, who had been a vocal opponent, said that he wasn’t going to rehash his reasons in voting against the sale.
“I was accused of grandstanding,” he said of criticism levied during the election campaign. “If giving citizens information is grandstanding, then I’m going to be doing a lot of grandstanding in the next three years.”
Vassilaki was the lone opponent in the vote, which approved the sale allowing the lands to be disposed.