The City of Penticton has found a buyer for one of two Munson Mountain properties it has been trying to sell for close to a year.
Council voted 5-1 Monday evening to sell the approximately 10-acre lot at 1125 Munson Ave. to Rajeev and Ritvy Sheoran for $1.2 million.
The property was one of three on Munson Mountain purchased by the city in 2004 to replace sports fields lost through construction of the South Okanagan Events Centre. Plans for the 12 hectares of land called for the construction of a sports-complex and softball and soccer fields.
The proposal soon ran into opposition from residents, and eventually the Agricultural Land Commission, because two of the three lots were zoned as agricultural reserve.
Following a 2005 referendum in which 56 per cent of participants voted to keep the two lots agricultural, council eventually decided to sell them while holding onto the third for future development. Late last year, with the real estate market cold, council voted 5-2 to reduce both lots by $50,000 each.
Speaking during the public input portion of Monday night’s meeting, Naramata Road resident Sandi Ross told council the property should be left for park-users who do not play sports like softball or soccer.
“You can drive from (City Hall) to Skaha Park and do not come within a couple of kilometres of any really usable public open space,” said Ross, who worked on the city’s parks and recreation committee to create a parks master plan.
Thirty-three year Penticton resident Lila Parsons urged council to hold off on the sale until the market rebounds.
“I feel that $1.2 million is too low a price,” said Parsons. “Real estate sales are at a 20-year low at this time, however, economists say the economy is expected to pick up in three years and so will real estate sales prices.”
But Coun. Mike Pearce suggested there might be a preferable use for the money which must stay in the city’s park-use budget.
“I like the idea of getting rid of that land that we are not going to use and buying some other more strategic land and making double the value while it’s down in price,” said Pearce.
“Hopefully we will allocate the funds to better use somewhere else in the community that perhaps even the two opponents will be happy with.”
Only Coun. Garry Litke voted against the sale because, like Parsons, he said the city should wait for the real estate market to rebound.
“Are we really desperate to sell this land? Do we really need this money for something else?” said Litke. “There are some ideas of what could be done with the money. Some of those ideas are attractive but in the current situation, because I don’t think any of us would be selling our own personal property, I can’t support the selling of this public property in this market.”
Pearce took some issue with Litke’s point as he said he currently has some of his own property on the market.
Coun. John Vassilaki pointed out that there is no infrastructure at the Munson Mountain location, noting that the city owns plenty of park space elsewhere that it currently cannot afford to develop.
“(It was mentioned) that Kelowna is ahead of us when it comes to parkland but Kelowna doesn’t have the citizens that we have in Penticton that restrict city council from doing what is in the best interest of the community in order to bring in more revenue into the community to buy and develop … more recreational land or more parkland or any of the other facilities that they want in our community,” Vassilaki said.
“They restrict us when it comes to development. They restrict us when we’re bringing in clean work for people in the community. It doesn’t matter what it is, they will not accept change and without change we cannot go forward.”