Mayor reminds cultural groups who makes decisions

Cultural groups pursuing new facilities may not get exactly what they want.

Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky says there’s no guarantee politicians will agree with the art gallery and museum on a referendum date, how much money may be borrowed and where proposed facilities go.

“How this process moves forward is totally in our control,” he said of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, which oversees culture.

“It’s our job. We take final responsibility on what goes to the public.”

Both the Vernon Public Art Gallery and the Greater Vernon Museum want referendums in April to borrow funds for expanded facilities — possibly up to $17.5 million combined.

But city council instructed staff Monday to provide a report on Vernon’s cultural core, including possible sites for a new art gallery and museum.

“We need a clear idea of what the potential is,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

VPAG wants to construct a new facility on the former Vernon Flower Shop property, which is owned by the city, but others have suggested the gallery and museum should go together on the city-owned Coldstream Hotel site.

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe favours separate structures.

“It’s good to have things people can walk to. It gives you more energy and capacity if there are two and not just one,” she said.

No decision on location was made Monday, but if the gallery proceeds on the flower shop site, council has agreed to sell the 31st Avenue property to the Regional District of North Okanagan. That would align ownership with the agency responsible for culture.

Opposition to selling the land came from Lord and Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

“The public hasn’t had an opportunity for meaningful input on where the art gallery should go,” she said.

“I run into people all of the time who don’t agree that it (flower shop) is the ideal site and they haven’t had an opportunity for input.”

O’Keefe, though, insists that substantial planning has evolved around the gallery at that site.

“They can use Cenotaph Park across the road for arts programs,” she said.





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