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Directors reach peace over parks
Transfer of large chunks of land have clinched a likely end to Greater Vernon’s parks dispute.
Representatives for Vernon, Coldstream and the electoral areas have signed a memorandum of understanding which will see some parks remain regional while others will fall under individual jurisdictions.
“We want to co-operate and we’ve seen this over the last year and it’s great,” said Rob Sawatzky, a Vernon director.
But to get to a tentative agreement — which must now be endorsed by all jurisdictions — some trade-offs were made.
Specifically, Vernon has agreed to take ownership of 10 Regional District of North Okanagan sites on Lakeshore Road in return for the city transferring title for Kal Beach to the regional district.
“We get the ability to determine what we will do with the lands,” said Sawatzky of the Lakeshore Road sites, adding they could play a critical role in the city’s waterfront development plan.
If any of the lots are sold, the money must go back into parks.
While Kal Beach is in Coldstream, it is owned by Vernon and the city had previously refused to change the zoning from residential to parks.
Jim Garlick, Coldstream director, supports transferring Kal Beach title from the city to RDNO.
“It takes all of the speculation away of what we can do with it,” he said.
“It allows us to invest in it as park with a sense of confidence.”
Sawatzky insists changing ownership for Kal Beach will benefit his constituents.
“It will be a park and that will never change,” he said, adding that Coldstream has promised to rezone the property from residential to parks.
As part of the MOU, ownership of all parks under the control of individual jurisdictions will be transferred to those jurisdictions.
As a result, Polson Park’s designation will shift from regional to local because Vernon was not willing to give up ownership to RDNO, which is responsible for parks deemed to be regional.
“That might be a tough sell,” said director Juliette Cunningham of possible public reaction to the city relinquishing control of Polson Park.
The memorandum of understanding must now be ratified by the RDNO board and Vernon and Coldstream councils.
There is a concern that some politicians who were not part of negotiations may not be pleased with the terms of the draft agreement.
“It’s a large mixture of compromise. If you cherry-pick one or two items, you open up the whole panorama,” said Trafford Hall, RDNO administrator, who facilitated discussions.
“We’re aiming for improvement and not perfection.”
If all jurisdictions sign the MOU, bylaws will be amended to reflect the new service model.
All parties will now move ahead with possible changes to recreation and cultural programs.