City gives Skaha Marina development green light

The new marina and waterpark proposed by Trio Marine Group will go ahead with every component despite vocal opposition.

Andrew Bayston

Andrew Bayston

The new marina and water park proposed by Trio Marine Group is going ahead despite vocal opposition.

During a special meeting of city council on June 29, members of the public spent nearly three hours expressing their views, which were overwhelmingly in opposition to the marina plans — largely regarding the loss of public green space.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and Coun. Tarik Sayeed both said they support the project. However they voted against the motion which would allow developers to take the next step, as they wanted to see more thought go into the layout of the water park. They did support the development of the marina however, but with only two votes against, the motion which gives the green light for both the marina and water park was carried.

“My only reservation was I thought some of the parking probably could have been shifted to the outskirts of the park — that’s the only reason I voted against that part of the contract because it’s difficult to make amendments to where the footprint is going to be after the fact,” Mayor Jakubeit said. “Instead of a commercial development all in one cluster, perhaps some of the parking moved to the outskirts so you can have better flow and a better park experience; better utilization of the park’s layout.”

One reason why Coun. Andre Martin supported the project was to give the developers bureaucratic stability.

“I understand Coun. Martin’s call for giving the developers some stability,” Mayor Jakubeit said. “Without a contract they can’t approach their funding sources.”

Nonetheless, he said spending another 30-60 days for better planning would not cause undue hardship for anybody.

While the public gallery was full, primarily of residents opposed to the project, Coun. Campbell Watt said the amount of negativity was a lot to bear, having heard very little opposition prior to the June 29 meeting.

Coun. Max Picton said the water park will serve as an amenity for younger generations, which the city needs more of.

“I truly believe it’s the best thing for the growing community and the younger generation and families,” he said. “It’s important to note that it’s a water park going into the park. It’s still a park. There is a ton of stuff in that park that is free, and it’s open to everybody to use. To have one item in there for people that want to pay to use it – I’m in favour of that.”

Picton said some of his fondest memories of growing up in Penticton stem from school trip to the water park.

Following the vote, a couple irate members of the public accused council of not listening to the community.

“You didn’t hear us — we’re not opposed to the waterslide, but we wanted time to find the right place, and this council did not listen to us,” shouted one man.

“Didn’t you hear anything anybody said?” asked another lady.

“We spent three-and-a-half hours listening to everyone. We had a debate. It was council’s decision to move forward,” Mayor Jakubeit said. “As frustrating as it may be, that’s the direction council decided to take.”

One delegate from the public who spoke in turn was Phil Cove, who said a waterslide could function on any vacant land in the city. “It does not have to be on a beautiful waterfront park that is used by city taxpayers 12 months of the year.”

He said a waterslide only operates during a fraction of the year, and there’s no guarantee it will be usable for future generations.

“Whereas a city park will be there for my grandchildren’s grandchildren.”

“It’s not that we don’t want development, but to ensure that thoughtful and sustainable development happens in our city, and especially around Skaha Lake,” said resident Susan Tiny.

Former Mayor of Penticton Jake Kimberley also spoke, saying that the public isn’t against the prosperity of business, but rather against the sale of public land.

“I can just see it now ‘Come to Penticton we have a waterslide.’ Is that going to create a great influx of tourists? Oh please.”

Another issue raised was the affordability of the water-park.

Resident Patty Quinn said that as a young, single mom, she could only ever afford to take her children to the previous waterslides in Penticton one time. Alternatively, Quinn said her family made frequent use of the city’s public beaches.

“There are a lot of taxpaying families in this town who are on either lower or fixed income who can’t afford water parks on a regular basis,” she said. “So they use the beaches.”

The entire crowd wasn’t completely opposed to the plan as is. Diana Stirling addressed council to share support as both the chair of Penticton Tourism and also the mother of a young family.

“What we have heard from tourism stakeholders is that this is something we have needed in Penticton for years. We simply need to do more to attract and retain the families in our town,” she said. “This without a doubt will do that.”

Sayeed brought up the idea of discounted passes for lower income families as a condition for the developer.

Watt sympathized with the premise of Sayeed’s idea, but didn’t support its application.

“This is a business venture for the operators,” he said, adding that a ‘low-income’ threshold would have to be arbitrarily set.

“It’s an area we shouldn’t be going down.”

However, Watt said it would be nice to see the operators offer season passes for locals and also collaborate with service clubs.

“Until you actually see the finished product it’s hard for people to visualize,” Mayor Jakubeit said.

Following council’s major decision regarding the development, Coun. Helena Konanz proposed an amendment to the city’s revenue-sharing formula, in which 50 per cent of money the city collects from the water park would be reinvested in future park space. She suggested instead that 100 per cent of that revenue be used for future park space, and that motion passed unanimously.

“That allows us to continue improving parks throughout the city and in particular Skaha Lake,” Mayor Jakubeit said.