There is growing pressure to keep public land public.
The Regional District of North Okanagan purchased 166 acres of the BX Ranch on East Vernon Road in 2016 and is currently rezoning 137 acres so it can be sold for residential development.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to retain a historically significant green space as an agricultural park,” said Paul Williamson, with a committee formed by the BX-Swan Lake Community Association to lobby to retain the land as public.
“This piece of property is adjacent to Vernon’s East Hill neighbourhood which has one of the highest population densities in the North Okanagan and is currently under served with parks.”
If the 137 acres are sold off, the remaining 36 acres would create a park between BX Ranch and Mutrie Road parks.
Mike Macnabb, BX-Swan Lake area director, wants the entire 166 acres kept.
“I’d hate to see another carving up of farmland,” he said.
However, Macnabb says that when RDNO purchased the 166 acres for $2.3 million, a condition from partners Vernon and Coldstream was that a portion be sold off as a way of generating revenue.
Macnabb believes the process indicates that the electoral areas are treated differently than municipalities.
“We haven’t done this with other purchases,” he said.
The BX-Swan Lake Community Association has suggested an agricultural park for the site.
“We’re looking for partnerships with local schools, Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan, and other groups interested in preserving this rural land base,” said Williamson.
A public hearing on rezoning the 166 acres from country residential to large holding will be held today at the RDNO office at 4 p.m.