Some Vernon businessmen believe there’s a solution to ensuring a sensitive ecosystem is preserved.
Jim Kennedy and Bob Armstrong collectively own 1,200 acres in the Commonage and they say they will dedicate 400 acres for park if the City of Vernon approves development zoning for the remainder.
“It wouldn’t cost the city anything,” said Kennedy. “We think this is an answer to concerns about having a park there.”
However, Kennedy says the city hasn’t shown any interest in the proposal for the land adjacent to McKay reservoir and Predator Ridge.
“I find it odd that someone offers land worth about $6 to $8 million and they would hesitate,” he said.
In return, Kennedy and Armstrong would like the city to rezone the remaining 800 acres so a residential/tourism development can eventually proceed.
“It would be a nice development like Predator Ridge or Sparkling Hill,” said Kennedy.
The city has been under pressure from the North Okanagan Natural Areas Preservation Committee to set aside a portion of the Commonage because of the grasslands and at-risk species.
“It would be nice to have parkland preserved,” said Armstrong of his proposal.
“The pick of the land would be for park.”
If the city doesn’t accept the offer of parkland in exchange for zoning, Armstrong says he has no development plans for the site.
“It’s not a big deal. I like that property and so do my grandchildren,” he said.
City officials confirm they have discussed the matter with Kennedy.
“We’d love to have parkland but we can’t trade zoning. It’s not allowed,” said Kim Flick, community development manager.
“They (zoning and park dedication) are separate processes.”
Presently, the land in question is zoned agriculture and the official community plan designation is rural/agriculture. But it is part of a hillside residential reserve which means the property could be considered for development in the future.
But when development could be allowed is undetermined.
“We are well supplied with resort property right now,” said Flick, adding there is also a significant inventory of residential lots.
“There are thousands of acres already approved. We have well over 8,400 lots approved and they are mostly in the hillside zone.”