Extension for rail trail proposal

Local governments are trying to purchase the CN rail line between Coldstream and Kelowna

  • Nov. 28, 2014 4:00 p.m.

ALISTAIR WATERS

Black Press

Call it an extended extension.

The local governments in the Okanagan that are trying to obtain the abandoned CN rail line between Kelowna and Coldstream have been given another one-week extension to make their submission to the Canadian Transportation Agency.

The extension will also give negotiators more time to try to do a deal with CN and avoid the CTA process altogether.

According to the local governments’ lead negotiator Doug Gilchrist, the new extension, granted Monday, follows directly on the heels of a previous one-week extension that expired the same day.

Canadian Transportation Agency is waiting for the local government’s submission to start its process of determining what a fair price for the 50-kilometres of land along the rail corridor would be.

Gilchrist said he is hopeful a deal can be done without having to involve the CTA.

“We’re close but I won’t say we have a deal until we actually have one,” he said Tuesday.

While the local governments asked the CTA to determine a fair price — CN is believed to be asking $50 million— they say they would prefer to negotiate a deal directly with CN.

Kelowna, Lake Country, Coldstream and the Regional District of North Okanagan, supported by Vernon, have teamed up to try and buy the abandoned rail corridor with the idea of turning it to a valley-long recreational trail.

In September, Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi said the local governments and CN had “the essence of a deal,” but as a precaution, to protect their position and stop CN from offering the rail corridor to anyone else, they called for the land value determination by the CTA.

That process has yet to start, said city spokesman Tom Wilson. If no deal  is made in the next week, The CTA will start its process.

The rail line and corridor are owned by CN and a separate operator was running trains on it between Kelowna and Coldstream up until last summer.

Since the closure of the spur line, a short portion  in the north Okanagan near its intersection with the main CN east-west line has re-opened. But the majority of the line through the Okanagan spur has remained closed. That is the section the municipalities and regional district want to buy.

Kelowna officials have said a number of funding opportunities are being pursued to raise the money to pay for the acquisition, should talks be successful with CN.

If no negotiated deal can be made, the CTA price determination would be binding on CN but not on the municipalities. They would then have to decide if they want to pay that price or let CN sell off the land, either in whole or in parts, to other non-government buyers.

“Like any real estate transaction there are many parts to be negotiated and this one is no different,” said Gilchrist in explaining the need for more time to try and make a deal.

 

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