The public will have a little more time to comment on options the Waterfront Revitalization Committee has brought forward and answer their survey, but you will need to move quickly.
“There has been a lot of healthy discussion about what the public wants to see on the west Okanagan Lake waterfront, and we want the conversation to continue,” said Rod King, chair of the Waterfront Enhancement Select Committee.
Public input on two options for the stretch of beach from the SS Sicamous to The Peach was to have closed at the end of August, but after a large protest rally last week, the committee decided to extend the input period until Friday for the public to review the plans and fill out their survey. They’ve also made hard copies of the survey and the design drawings available for those who can’t access them online at City Hall council chambers, Penticton Community Centre and the City Yards building.
The committee has been working for several months to gather public input about possible changes and improvements to the beach area stretching from the SS Sicamous to the Peach, resulting in two options brought forward in late August for more public comment. Both options included substantial changes to traffic flow along Lakeshore, as well as replacing the current angle parking with parallel parking.
The proposals caught some in the community by surprise, including Clifford Martin, one of the organizers of the protest rally. He has aired concerns not only about some of the proposals, but the online input process, which he said was confusing for people. At Tuesday’s regular council meeting, he presented the city with a large petition opposing the changes.
“We got over a thousand signatures. The biggest issue, of course, is changing it to a one-way street and eliminating the angle parking. These intersection plazas will also eliminate parking spots,” said Martin. He also conducted a survey of business owners along Lakeshore and said they also were in opposition.
“I think the majority of the public agree that it’s just not going to work,” said Martin.
Coun. Garry Litke, one of the council representatives to the committee, said some changes to the beach are necessary to replace the aging infrastructure.
“The status quo is not an option. It is crumbling,” said Litke.
The question is, he continued, whether the city goes in there with a band aid and spends a couple of million dollars restoring it or spends a bit more to make it something truly remarkable for the waterfront.
“The community has been saying to us for the last couple of months that we want to see something significant happen there. So it is not the committee pushing it on the community, it is the community making this request of the committee.”
Mitch Moroziuk, Penticton’s director of operations and the staff representative on the committee, said they took steps to ensure that they kept the public informed.
“Very early in this project we went to all the residents along Lakeshore Drive and asked for their email addresses so we could communicate with them. They were provided with information on all of the open houses, when and where they were,” said Moroziuk. “We did the same with the businesses there and the same thing with all of the interest groups that use the waterfront.
“Peach City Beach Cruise was on that list, so they were well aware of the first and second pubic consultation sessions. They were also aware of the third one. They got some additional emails sent to them on the third one to get them out and get them to provide some input on the project.”
Mayor Dan Ashton is concerned that some members of the public are misinformed about the stage the revitalization project is at. Actual changes are some time away, and even after the current survey closes, there will still be more public input.
“There isn’t $7.1 million in the city coffers to do the project,” he said. “And Option A and B are not the only options available. Those are the two options that were presented to date. There is lots of opportunity for more input.”