Penticton’s Mayor Andrew Jakubeit kicked off a special council meeting Wednesday with an apology.
“I am truly sorry it took so long to get to the point we are at now,” said Jakubeit as council prepared for public input on the settlement and enhanced marina agreements the city proposed to make with Trio Marine Group.
Jakubeit said he wouldn’t say signing the original agreement with Trio last summer that would have allowed them to build a waterslide complex on green space in Skaha Lake Park was a bad decision, but he did repeat comments made earlier this month that experience leads to good decision making.
“I don’t think anyone would have anticipated that it would snowball to where we are today,” said Jakubeit. Interest in the agreement was apparent in the turnout, with about 700 people turning out to Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
The feelings of a large portion of the audience was also 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.”
Martin said the society was disappointed in the agreements, which were revised two days ago to eliminate an amenity on a large portion of the park, and restrict the loss of green space. Martin said the final agreement did not agree with what they were shown last week.
SSPS finds it another example of the city enabling Trio to get what it wants, said Martin, adding that the society is soured on every aspect of the deal.
“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 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.
“We can’t unring the bell,” said Jakubeit, addressing comments coming from the audience about the process, and explaining council agreed the original public consultation had been too short.
Jakubeit said the city worked hard to come to an agreement that took the waterslides and loss of green space off the table.
“Does it makes sense to try to negotiate out of it and write a cheque?” asked Jakubeit, to applause and cheers from the audience.
Jakubeit tried to explain that the goal of council was to find a balance and consider all options.
Interim CAO Mitch Moroziuk said the revised agreements represent the best deal the city could make with Trio, noting the possibility of a third notice of claim by Trio against the city, should they not find a way to settle the issue.
The city could have found itself with two civil claims — one by SSPS and one by Nelson Meikle — and then another by Trio, said Moroziuk, if the city tried to declare the original agreement void.
“I am not certain why we have lost your trust,” said Tom Dyas, one of the principals of Trio Marine, responding to a comment from the audience. “We did what we had thought … was appropriate to bring awareness to everyone of what was proposed.
“We have seen and we have heard that there was major concerns with the water park,” said Dyas, adding that was what led them to renegotiate with the city. “In the process of losing your respect, we regret we did do that, but we are trying to listen.”
Council will discuss the new settlement agreement and enhanced Skaha Marina agreement at a special council meeting tentatively scheduled for Dec. 1.