Future amenity for Skaha Park may be dropped

A controversial section in the proposed settlement agreement with Trio Marine group might not make it into the final version.

The Save Skaha Park Society aren't withdrawing their lawsuit until they are assured there won't be any commercial development in the park

The Save Skaha Park Society aren't withdrawing their lawsuit until they are assured there won't be any commercial development in the park

A controversial section in the proposed settlement agreement with Trio Marine group might not make it into the final version.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the city has heard concerns about a section of the proposal outlining a portion of Skaha Lake Park for a future amenity, to be discussed in 2019. Depending on what they hear at the Nov. 23 public meeting to gather input on the proposed Trio agreements, Jakubeit said removing the section might be considered.

“Council might direct staff … this is a common concern and if we are to move forward, that has to be rectified or taken out,” said Jakubeit. “I think Trio is certainly aware of this, and they don’t want the suit to continue.”

Read more: Penticton’s park saga isn’t over yet

Jakubeit also suggested Trio might be attending the meeting, with a statement to address that concern.

“That is the next step. We need to resolve that,” said Jakubeit. “The public meeting on Wednesday is to get comment from the public and fully understand what concerns the community has.”

The future amenity has been a sticking point for the Save Skaha Park Society, which filed a civil suit against the city and Trio last September to block Trio’s plans to build a water slide complex on parkland leased from the city.

Dr. Gerry Karr, a member of the SSPS advisory committee, said society is mandated to oppose commercial developments in the park, not just Trio’s water slide concept.  That means the society won’t be backing away from their civil suit until they are assured there will be no commercial development in the park.

Duane Martin, a director of the society, said they aren’t willing to drop the suit based on the city’s assurances about public consultation and developing a policy to address commercial activity in parks.

“Based on everything we have seen to this point, how can we trust them?” asked Martin,  who said the agreement only takes the future of that section of park from the known (water slides) to unknown.

Karr said the society isn’t interested in playing into a scenario where they remove the suit, only to find the park given over to another commercial venture two years down the road. The only thing that would bring the society to drop the civil suit would be an assurance the park would be permanently saved from commercial development.

Karr admits the ongoing controversy triggered by the original Trio proposal 18 months ago isn’t good for the city’s image. The best way to deal with that, he said, is for the city to get away from the deal altogether.

“As long as we have this turmoil in the community, fractured community, this has to be a deterrent to people wanting to start a business here,” said Karr, who doesn’t expect those effects will continue after the matter is settled.

“This is a specific case that has to do with misuse of public land. It doesn’t have anything to do with developing private for commercial purposes.”

The argument that Penticton needs the income from developing parks also fell flat.

“It’s like burning the furniture to heat your house,” said Karr. “They got themselves into this mess, they are going to have to find a way out.

“It’s about developing a taxation policy … it is about explaining that taxation policy in a way that people can understand and accept it.”

Karr said parks are a long term positive for any city’s economy, and a city that is well-served by parks is a city that attracts high end business.

“If they want to diversify, make sure they emphasize the importance of a livable  city with a high quality of life, and that is what parks do,” said Karr. “They really are making a huge mistake if they further degrade the attractiveness of this community by commercializing its parks to pay the bills now and scare away even more people who might want to come live and work here.”