Almost a year after the first civil claim was filed, the City of Penticton responded to a pair of Supreme Court actions aimed at preventing the lease of parkland to a private commercial venture.
In both cases, the city denies it acted outside its jurisdiction last summer when it signed a lease agreement with Trio Marine Group for a portion of the park next to Skaha Marina, and that public approval was not needed.
The city’s legal counsel, Robert Macquisten of the Victoria firm Stewart McDannold Stuart, filed responses today to the Save Skaha Park Society’s civil claim, filed on Sept. 25, 2015, and Nelson Meikle’s similar claim, filed on July 28.
According to a press release, over the past 10 months the city has sought a resolution to the SSPS concerns outside of court procedures. The release said the city is still optimistic that a negotiated resolution is possible but understands that while conversations are progressing, so must the legislative requirement to file a statement of defence.
“I think all parties are best served by coming to the table for a rational conversation, free from sensationalism and lawyers – this is still the aim and we will still work to resolve this through all channels” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit in the release. “Our defence helps us get closer to resolution and an outcome we can all embrace”.
The city’s statement of defence in both cases outlines claims the city has conveyed from early in the process denying the land in question was acquired on trust conditions. The responses also claim council has acted within its authority regarding Skaha agreements, a key complaint from the SSPS, who say the city acted outside their powers by agreeing to the lease without going to referendum.
Approval of electors is only applicable under specific circumstances of acquisition in the Community Charter and does not apply to these agreements, the city claims in it’s release. Approval of the electors is only applicable, the city response claims, if the city were to remove the dedication of parkland, which has never been the intention.
The SSPS has always maintained that the length of the lease, 29 years with the possibility of two five-year extensions, amounts to disposing of the parkland, and should have triggered a referendum.
The release also said the city is exploring further negotiations and an out of court resolution, discovery is the next step of the legal process.