Negotiations have failed between the Town of Osoyoos and the group contracted to run Desert Park, leaving it up in the air as to what will happen with the site.
“The South Interior Recreational Equestrian Centre is walking away because they couldn’t negotiate after two years to get anything more than a month-to-month lease,” said Richard Tessier, chair of the Friends of Desert Park Society. “After three councils, three CAOs and nine years, the town comes up with a legal opinion that we can’t rent it or lease it to a for-profit corporation. Something is wrong in the way we govern ourselves if after all this time they said it is against the community charter. It’s very disappointing because they seem to just be ignoring the will of the people.”
SIREC issued a letter to the Town of Osoyoos last week explaining their dismay over the failed negotiations and blaming the town. Barry Romanko, CAO of Osoyoos, said that letter was dealt with in-camera and would not be released to the public possibly until the July 4 regular council meeting. However, some media outlets were made aware of the letter.
The Osoyoos Times reported that on June 14, SIREC president Allan Carswell sent a letter to the CAO advising him the organization would be terminating its month-to-month lease for Desert Park as of Aug. 31. Carswell stated with the short-term lease they were unable to attract major events. Carswell also said the town rejected a different form of agreement than a lease after more than 30 months of waiting.
Carswell accused the town of not giving SIREC a long-term lease because of a legal opinion that advised the town to not do so because SIREC is a for-profit entity.
The town issued a press release on Tuesday with points that are contrary to allegations made by SIREC that the town’s actions are the sole cause of the negotiations failing. It states delays in negotiating the agreement need to be shared by both parties, and town administration needed formal direction from council as SIREC negotiators needed to get direction from their board of directors on proposals presented.
“All these approval processes caused delays, however, lack of availability of SIREC negotiators contributed significantly to extended delay periods. The town has not been able to schedule a meeting with SIREC since we provided them the legal opinion in December. Town staff has always been available to meet and work out points of the agreement,” according to the town release.
The statement from the mayor and council of Osoyoos said the choice to set up a for-profit corporation operating model was not dictated by the town and SIREC chose their current model based on their own needs. Osoyoos council said the goals in developing an agreement were to meet the long-term needs of the community as a whole, protect community access and enable appropriate use of the site that would enhance economic development of the community.
“Council is disappointed that SIREC has chosen to end its operations at Desert Park instead of meeting with the town and reviewing operating options as presented with the legal opinion that was shared with SIREC. Council wants to make it very clear the decision not to seek an acceptable agreement was a SIREC decision. The town still wants to see a successfully operational Desert Park,” stated the release.
Osoyoos council has requested that SIREC vacate the premises as of July 31.