Even though they talked for three hours, the voices raised at a special meeting of council on Monday may still have been a case of too little, too late.
Council voted 5 to 2 to greenlight a plan that will see Trio Marine Group convert the area around the Skaha Marina, including a good-sized chunk of Skaha Lake Park, into a water slide attraction.
In a tourist town, the idea of adding another amenity to attract tourists isn’t a bad idea. But in this situation it will come at the cost of leasing part of a public park to private interests, in addition to temporarily removing the public (and free) splash park that presently graces that end of the park.
Many of the protests council listened to during the lengthy public hearing questioned whether the development was going in the right place. And now that council has given Trio the go ahead the tune has changed to one that council isn’t listening to the voice of the people.
On the surface, that is true. But digging deeper, we have to ask why there hasn’t been ongoing protests, starting last September, when the City of Penticton forced out the previous leaseholders — the Attrill family, who operated the marina and their business there since 1986 — in favour of the bigger plans put forward by Trio. Details were sketchy at the time — itself a warning sign that more was going on behind closed doors than the City wanted taxpayers to know about, or could divulge at the time — but it was clear that public park lands were part of the deal.
If the people of this community wanted to put a stop to this deal, or make Trio Marine fit it better with our community’s overall desires, that was when the questions and demands for answers should have started.
But by the time of the June 29 hearing arrived, it was already too late. After more than a year of planning this sale of public land, mostly behind closed doors, council had little choice but to support the deal.