Penticton council rejects bids on city-owned lots

City will clean up the Eckhardt Avenue lands that were the site of a failed hockey dorm project

It seems that a series of city-owned lots along Eckhardt Avenue are going to remain empty for a while longer.

On April 3, the City of Penticton started a request for proposal process to find a developer to purchase the nine city-owned lots near the South Okanagan Events Centre. The RFP was not only advertised locally, but also in major provincewide newspapers in B.C. and Alberta.

Only three proposals were received by the time the process closed on May 8, and after discussing them in a closed meeting on Monday, Penticton city council has declared that none of the three were suitable and terminated the RFP process without finding a purchaser.

Each of the proposals was evaluated according to four major criteria, including the proposed purchase price, the planned development and the proponent’s experience and ability to complete the project. The fourth criteria was how the proponent intended to deal with the approximately $1.6 million in liens placed on the properties by developers who didn’t receive payment for a botched earlier project.

Though the deal was never closed, a previous purchase deal for $925,000 was made in November 2011 with developer Loren Reagan. However, Reagan was allowed to begin work on the property before the city received payment in order to facilitate his project, a dormitory for the Okanagan Hockey Academy.

That deal came to a crashing end in March when Reagan’s backers pulled out and news broke about allegations of fraudulent business practices on Reagan’s part.

With no acceptable proposal, council is being close-mouthed about future plans for the property.

“The city is going to be considering all its options at this point in time,” said Mayor Dan Ashton. He added that the properties, which contain partially finished foundations for the dormitory, will be cleaned up — at the city’s cost — to an acceptable standard for a city-owned property.

Coun. Garry Litke said council has discussed how to proceed with the property during their in-camera meeting.

“We do have a plan, I am just not liberty to discuss the details,” said Litke. “None of them (the RFP packages) were acceptable, so we are back to being owners of the land. We are going to have to deal with what we have there and then explore all of our options.”

According to Coun. John Vassilaki, the city will likely put the properties up for sale again in the future. He has spoken against selling the properties in the past, a position he sticks to.

“I disagree, but they probably will put it up for sale, whether they want to list it through a realtor or just the city,” said Vassilaki. “But I am sure that is what they are going to attempt to do, something like that.”

Vassilaki said he remains “dead against selling it” at any price. Five to 10 years down the road, he explained, the city will need as much property as it can in that area. With increasing numbers of events on the SOEC campus, more parking will be needed.

“We are going to need double the parking that we have today,” he said. “We have to have a vision and we have to work on that vision for what we are going to need five to 20 years from now.”