Community consensus needed

Wharton Street proposal deprives Summerland citizens the opportunity to own a free-standing facility that reflects their cultural identity

The finer print of the Wharton Street proposal in Summerland.

The details Ken Ostraat referred to in the May issues of the Summerland Review are not there, but a perusal of the agreement signed recently between the developer and the district adds a little more perspective.

The proposal consists of a number of tall and uninspiring buildings that will include a 6,000 square foot room on the main floor which the district is proposing to use as a museum, and an 8,000 square foot room located on the second level which the district is proposing to use as a community hall and convention facility.

The term ‘cultural centre’ is a bit of a misnomer. Both rooms have four walls, a level floor, and there will be no theatre and no seats. The rooms could be used for any purpose, including conventional retail space. Equity and security also needs closer scrutiny. Will an $850,000 progressive covenant for a $5.9 million project guarantee completion?

The library is part of the Okanagan Regional Library system, which is a separate public entity, complete with financing and governance, and is free to make any arrangements to build, buy or lease required space anywhere in our community.

To allow the museum and convention centre to be slotted into a strip mall environment is an incredible loss of opportunity to define our downtown.

Combining those ‘cultural’ components with commercial tenants deprives the citizens the opportunity to own a free-standing facility that properly reflects our cultural identity. It also defies economic sense.

At a glance, it may look like Summerland is getting a free museum and a convention centre. In reality, these facilities represent some enormous costs, including the land with an assessed value of about $2.9 million.

The developer will get the land that would have continued to appreciate in value, and the citizens will own two strata-title properties that will only depreciate with age.

The bigger cost is the fact that it will deny Summerland the opportunity to have a free-standing cultural facility for literally decades.

An example of what we should aspire to build is the public library on Ellis Street in Kelowna, a pleasing architectural achievement, something the citizens can be truly proud of.

The support of 91 people out of a population of about 11,000 is not an overwhelming endorsement. A project of this magnitude needs the consensus of the whole community. Where was that ballot?

Andy Thomsen