The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) is set to acquire the coveted O’Keefe Range lands in Vernon.
The OKIB has reached an agreement with the City of Vernon to purchase the 2,310 acres of land for $26.8 million.
Over the next three months the community will have the chance to learn about the land and the purchase agreement, and will ultimately vote on whether the band should proceed with the purchase. OKIB council will hold the vote in mid-January 2022.
If the community votes against the acquisition, the down payment of $30,000 will be refunded.
“I believe it is our duty to return this land to the original owners,” said OKIB Chief Byron Louis. “The land is adjacent to our border and it will be sold to someone. Opportunities to expand the reserve do not come around often and we are in a good position to act. For posterity, we need to add these 2,310 acres back to the reserve.”
Located in the Bella Vista area within City of Vernon boundaries, the land is comprised of 20 parcels and includes more than 300 acres that’s designated in a neighbourhood plan as medium-term residential development. Another 19 acres of the property is located in the agricultural land reserve.
The original asking price for the land was $28.8 million, but an appraisal report came back in February 2021 with a valuation of $25.4 million.
Two options for paying for the lands have been explored. The first is to get the federal government to make a down payment on the colonial land claim and purchase the land for the OKIB.
The second option is to borrow money from a commercial bank and then quickly develop part of the land to pay for the purchase cost. Due to interest payments, the band says this option is not ideal.
Key dates for the community to mark down include Dec. 7, when a community forum will be held via Zoom. In-person community engagement sessions will be held in early January before the community votes, and if the vote supports the purchase, the OKIB will have until the end of July 2022 to come up with the $26.8 million.