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Opposition fails to derail tourism plan

The City of Vernon is proceeding with plans to move the tourism information centre into a building next to Civic Arena.  - Photo Submitted
The City of Vernon is proceeding with plans to move the tourism information centre into a building next to Civic Arena.
— image credit: Photo Submitted

Vernon politicians remain committed to a tourism strategy despite vocal opposition.

About 35 residents attended a public hearing Monday and while most spoke against rezoning 3004 39th Avenue  to allow for a tourism booth, council voted 4-1 for third reading of the zoning bylaw.

“We decided in November that consolidating (tourism booths) is a good idea and being close to downtown is good for economic development,” said Coun. Brian Quiring.

However, that view wasn’t supported by most of the residents in the audience.

“This is a very high-density neighbourhood,” said Maurie Deaton, who owns property near the site next to Civic Arena. “You’re asking for 16,000 people and their dogs to be in their backyards. Tourism is important but so are the people in the neighbourhood.”

Much of the concern revolved around traffic and  the view that vehicles, including large RVs, will have a difficult time getting from the highway  and on to 39th Avenue.

“There’s a turning lane but no (turning) light. You can’t get off there,” said resident Roy Heinrichs, adding that vehicles waiting to turn will back up traffic.

A left-turn light on 32nd Street could cost $140,000, with it being split between the city and the Ministry of Transportation. The city would be responsible for any turn lights on 27th Street.

Some speakers also suggested that large RVs will be unable to make right-hand turns on to 39th Avenue from 32nd Street.

Many of the speakers stated the current north and south tourism booths serve the needs of visitors and the city’s centralization plan will not work.

“Tourist centres should be visible. By relocating it to 39th Avenue, it’s not visible,” said resident Eric Jackson.

Mike Mattinson, who runs a bed and breakfast, is concerned visitors won’t find the new tourism centre and that will disrupt his customer flow.

“Seventy per cent of my business comes from the visitors centre,” he said. “If customers don’t go into that rezoned area, we go under.”

However, support for the city’s plan came from businessperson Ingrid Baron, who says the 39th Avenue site is near hotels and restaurants.

“It will be a catalyst to beautify the area,” said Baron, a member of the city’s tourism advisory committee.

When it came time for third reading for the rezoning bylaw, a majority of council was in favour.

“A traffic study has been done and it shows there’s enough room to turn,” said Coun. Catherine Lord.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham is confident visitors will find the new location.

“We’ll have signage. If someone is determined to stay at a bed and breakfast in the community, they will find the tourist information centre,” she said.

The only council member to vote against third reading was Bob Spiers (Mary-Jo O’Keefe was absent).

“I’m getting more concerned about the economics. I’m not sure the (financial) figures are accurate,” he said.

City staff have stated that centralizing tourism services will save $70,000 annually and $292,215 will be needed to renovate the building.

The rezoning bylaw could be adopted by council  March 10.

 

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