Opposition to development in Skaha Lake Park has grown to include at least one member of Penticton’s city council.
“I have been against this new proposal from the very beginning,” said Coun. Tarik Sayeed. “Let’s end this once and for all and hold a referendum. When it’s done, it’s done.”
After 18 months, opposition to the City of Penticton’s plans for Skaha Lake Park shows no sign of dying away.
Around 700 people turned out to the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Wednesday evening to give the council the public input they requested on the settlement agreement with Trio Marine and the new enhanced marina agreement.
Council got an earful.
Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit kicked off the meeting with an apology.
“I am truly sorry it has taken so long to get to the point we are at now,” said Jakubeit. “I don’t think anyone would have anticipated that it would snowball to where we are today.”
How a large portion of the audience stood on the issue was clear when Lisa Martin, spokesperson for the Save Skaha Park Society, took the microphone.
“It has been a long and frustrating 18 months,” said Martin. “No other issue in this city’s history has been as divisive.”
“We strongly feel it is in all of our best interests to sever all ties with Trio and end this fiasco once and for all,” said Martin, as the crowd erupted in cheers and a standing ovation.
The SSPS, she said, feels the latest revisions to the agreements are another example of the city enabling Trio to get what it wants. They’ve soured on every aspect of the deal.
Though the latest version of the agreements eliminate the proposed commercial amenity section, and do a better job of preserving green space, Martin said the society was still disappointed as the final proposal did not agree with what they were shown last week.
Read more: Penticton revises Skaha Lake Park Agreements
“The city is not divided. We are united against the stubborn council that is determined to get its way,” said Gerry Kerr, a member of the society’s advisory committee.
The sentiment that the City of Penticton should just cut their losses, and end all deals with Trio Marine was repeated in different forms by many of the audience members who rose to speak during the meeting, which lasted for five hours.
Phil McCutchan was one of the few who rose in support of council, saying he had voted for them to move the city forward.
“I have given you the authority to make decisions,” he said. “Don’t cave in. A few thousand feet of grass, trees and a duck pond are not worthy of a referendum.”
Tom Dyas and Tom Hedquist of Trio Marine joined city council on stage to answer audience questions. He was surprised at the reactions coming from the audience.
“I am not certain why we have lost your trust,” said Dyas, one of the principals of Trio Marine, responding to a comment from the audience. “We have seen and we have heard that there is major concerns with the water park and that leads us to the conversations we have had with council.
“We are trying to listen. We are thankful you are here this evening.“
Jakubeit admitted council may have moved too quickly last year to sign the original agreements, with too little public consultation, but the need now was to find a way forward.
“We can’t unring the bell,” said Jakubeit, explaining the new agreements eliminate the waterslides, and commercialization is limited to a new concession, with no loss of green space. Trio will have first right to bid on any revenue generating amenity in a possible “boathouse concession amenity.”
The city worked hard, he said, to negotiate the new proposed agreements, and this was the best way forward, considering the options.
“Does it makes sense to try to negotiate out of it and write a cheque?” asked Jakubeit, to cheers from the audience and cries of “Yes, it does!”
Interim CAO Mitch Moroziuk said the revised agreements represent the best deal the city could make with Trio, noting the possibility of the company taking legal action if some way isn’t found to settle the issue.
“If we took the position that contract is null and void, Trio could turn around and say that is not our position,” said Moroziuk.
Then, Moroziuk said, the city could find Trio filing their own civil claim, along with the two existing civil claims — one by SSPS and one by Penticton resident Nelson Meikle.
“It was felt the better approach was to negotiate our way out of that position to where we are today.”
Council will discuss the agreements again in a meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1. Their options are: accept the proposed agreements; refuse to accept; instruct staff to try and sort out matters in some other way; or wait and see what occurs with the respect to the existing water park agreement.