The City of Penticton is now free to use $24,000 of developer Victor Durman’s $47,850 security to help build a trail to public lands on Campbell Mountain after voting 5-1 to approve an agreement with the developer Monday night.
The security was originally held to back Durman’s commitment to build a staircase to Campbell Mountain as part of the rezoning process for the construction of a 68-lot development. However, Durman said because the plan would require his construction team to cross through a protected area, he would not be able to obtain the necessary approvals from the province and/or the federal government to build the staircase — a conclusion that proved to be less than definite.
Outdoor enthusiasts and trail user-groups told council they still wanted the promised access to the land. And Penticton and Area Cycling Association president Andrew Drouin mapped out an alternative route, which city staff found to be a more accessible and maintainable than the original staircase route.
City staff investigated whether an unused provincial trail grant along with public donations could be combined with Durman’s security to pay for development of the route.
But Durman balked at the idea, telling the city in a letter that the issue of the stairwell “has nothing to do with nor is it connected to this new initiative,” insisting that “if the work can not be carried out, then the return of our letter of credit is automatic.”
Durman asked council to “empower” city CAO Annette Antoniak to negotiate a solution.
Council agreed and subsequently a deal was reached whereby the city would keep $24,000 of the security to do as it pleased with while the remaining $23,850 would be given back to Durman and he would be released from the requirement to construct a staircase. In addition, Durman will also have to pay a $250 public hearing fee and any legal costs of amending the agreement.
Arguing the deal is a good one for the city, Coun. Mike Pearce said he thought the requirement to build the staircase was frustrated in law and that continuing to hold Durman’s money might have resulted in a lawsuit.
“I am happy to see the developer co-operating rather than getting into a shooting match with us,” Pearce said.
Only Coun. John Vassilaki, a former developer himself, voted against the deal.
“There was an agreement made between the city and the proponent that he was going to give the city $47,850 for a trail for part of the trail network that was going to be put into place,” said Vassilaki. “That is the understanding that I have in order for him to get the rezoning and all the other goodies that he got for his project.
“Now, he still has all the rezoning and all the other stuff for his project but we are not getting our $47,850 … That money was specified for part of the trail and that is where it should be going.”