Penticton’s park saga isn’t over yet

The City of Penticton isn’t out of the woods yet over plans to develop Skaha Lake Park.

Duane Martin of the Save Skaha Park Society listens intently as the City of Penticton releases the new Trio Marine proposal for Skaha Lake Park and Marina

Duane Martin of the Save Skaha Park Society listens intently as the City of Penticton releases the new Trio Marine proposal for Skaha Lake Park and Marina

The City of Penticton isn’t out of the woods yet over plans to develop Skaha Lake Park.

On Tuesday, city hall proposed a settlement agreement and an enhanced marina development agreement terminating existing agreements with Trio Marine Group and establishing a new vision more palatable to the opponents of commercialization in parks.

“At first glance it looked like a good deal. Really, all the city has done is replaced waterslide with park amenity,” said Lisa Martin, spokesperson for the Save Skaha Park Society, which held their annual general meeting Wednesday.

“The thing people were most interested about was what happened at city hall two days ago (Tuesday),” said Martin. “We were able to assure them nothing has changed, it’s still full steam ahead for us.”

Read more: Update: Waterslides off the table for Skaha Park in Penticton

Penticton CAO Mitch Moroziuk and Mayor Andrew Jakubeit answered questions from the media at a press conference Wednesday.

— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

Last summer, the city signed two agreements with Trio, one for developing Skaha Marina and another to build a waterslide on a nearby portion of Skaha Lake Park.

The initial cost for dissolving that agreement totals $68,601: $20,000 in direct compensation to Trio, $20,000 for further safety-related repairs by Trio to the marina docks and $38,601 in rent and property taxes for 2016 that the city will be foregoing.

Trio will receive control of the Skaha Lake east concession when the current lease ends in 2018, as well as a chance to develop an in-lake aquatic play structure.

But the sticking point for opponents is a clause, to take effect in 2019, where a plan will be developed to build an amenity on the same area where the waterslide was planned, minus the current children’s splash pad. Trio will have first call on operating any revenue generating amenities proposed.

“They don’t get it, that most people don’t want commercialization on the green space,” said Martin. She added the SSPS hasn’t discussed the future of their civil suit with legal counsel, but did say they have no plan to give up the fight to protect the park.

“Our intent is to do whatever is required, if it (the civil suit) needs to be amended or tweaked to fit the new scenario, that is what we are going to do,” said Martin.

Read more: Civil lawsuits in Penticton over Skaha Park sliding forward

She pointed out that any future policy regarding park commercialization developed for the upcoming Parks and Rec Master Plan wouldn’t apply to this agreement, which states any new policy for commercial operations in parks will not apply retroactively to the Settlement Agreement of the Enhanced Marina Agreement.

“In that statement, they exempted themselves from the process they put in place to determine what people want in terms of commercialization in parks,” said Martin, who is also concerned about language that even after public consultation the park concept will be developed “in the city’s discretion.”

“They have basically given themselves carte blanche to do whatever they want in there,” she said, noting that this option also contradicts the city’s statement green space is being preserved.

Preserving green space?

“Green space is being preserved until we have a process on the park,” said interim CAO Mitch Moroziuk, adding that the previous agreements were executed in the absence of any public input.

“Under this process, the public amenity will go through a full public process undertaken by the city,” said Moroziuk. “The community gets to weigh in on that and the city gets to adjust that based on what they have heard. That’s very different than how we started with the original marina and water park agreement.

“If through that process people say we don’t want any commercial, we are not obligated to go back to Trio with anything. In our mind there is a process to get public input and get them engaged in whatever is going to happen.”

Jakubeit said they still need to develop the definition of that process and the metrics used to validate that community support for how the process will be handled in 2019.

Transparency at City Hall

Martin said there still seems to be a lack of transparency on the city’s part, pointing out the public’s desire to preserve the green space was clearly expressed over the last year.

“They can have as many engagement officers as they wish, if they are not going to listen to what the people say it doesn’t matter,” she said.

Though the City of Penticton has been moving toward eliminating the waterslide proposal since early this year, Jakubeit said he couldn’t be more forthright about the city’s position because Trio hadn’t formally come to the city.

“There had been some conversations about it, thoughts planted for them to consider,” said Jakubeit. “They were very slow to come to the city with their resolve to continue as planned, to modify or just to walk away. That has been part of the issue is them coming to the table.”

There was some progress made the mayor explained, but not to a definitive level where they could make a statement. He said it was frustrating for him too.

“I think it was important for the developer to come to the city and ask for some changes, versus the city trying to mandate that,” he said. “Certainly, we didn’t want the developer to think they had a leverage point; ‘if you want me to come to the table, bring your checkbook’.”

Public input

Penticton residents will get their chance to weigh in on the issue at a public hearing, which is now scheduled for Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.

Jakubeit said the meeting was delayed at public request to allow more time for people to absorb, study and formulate questions, and also allow time for the City to address some of the concerns or questions that are starting to come forth via email or through the city website at shapeyourcitypenticton.ca.