City council is debating whether a new policy should bind future councils to public consultation on all land dispostions. (File photo)

Land disposition policy delayed for a single word

Penticton council debating if future sales of city-owned land “may” or “shall” go to public process.

A single word brought voting on the City of Penticton’s new land disposition policy to a halt Monday.

The city is attempting to establish a land management strategy to administer over 400 parcels of property it currently owns. Mayor Andrew Jakubeit said the last time the city had a documented policy was in 1998.

Related: Penticton declines to sell city-owned properties

That includes having staff and council review city-owned lands for current or potential future use and which lands could be considered for disposition.

“I was actually quite surprised to see that we didn’t have some disposition policy in place prior to this,” said Coun. Max Picton, adding that the new policy would support more transparency.

But Coun. Judy Sentes pointed out that in one part, the use of the word “may” in another section released council from conducting public consultation.

“If the proposal is supported by council, the proposal may undergo a public process and be reviewed by the appropriate committees,” Sentes read from the policy. “I don’t think ‘may’ should be in there, that is what should happen.”

Sentes suggested “may” be replaced by “shall,” but Coun. Andre Martin argued in favour of the original wording.

“I think the intent is let’s go to the public and do that as much as we can. If you have shall, that forces that issue. ‘May’ gives future councils at least an opportunity to be flexible,” said Martin, suggested there might be a situation when speed was necessary, perhaps where a grant was available for a short period, not leaving time for consultation.

Coun. Campbell Watt wanted stronger wording but suggested a middle path.

“I think the wording should be will, not may or shall,” said Watt, adding that “as soon as possible” should also be part of the wording, along with a clause identifying exceptional circumstances.

Council didn’t come to a resolution on the issue and instead voted 4-2 to defer it to the Feb. 6 council meeting to give city staff time to work out new wording. Picton and Martin voted against the deferral and Coun. Helena Konanz was absent.

Steve Kidd
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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