Opening delayed for contentious Vernon tourism centre

Ministry of Transportation has not approved property rezoning for 39th Avenue site

Vernon’s new visitor information centre remains in limbo.

The facility, next to Civic Arena on 39th Avenue, was scheduled to open  May 1, but a firm timeline is now unknown as the Ministry of Transportation has not approved property rezoning.

“The local (ministry) office is waiting for a response from their regional traffic engineers on the matter,” states a city administration update to council.

The ministry has a role to play because the property is 800 metres off of Highway 97.

“Staff is hopeful that a response will be received shortly in order to bring the (rezoning) bylaw to the May 26 council meeting,” states the update.

However, at least one council member isn’t sure the provincial government will sign off on rezoning.

“If it ever opens,” said Coun. Bob Spiers of the facility.

“If they haven’t given approval by now, who knows. They’ve had it for a couple of months. I’m not sure how unusual that is.”

The new location of the visitor information centre has fuelled considerable debate in the community, with many residents questioning the ability of tourists in RVs to access the site off the highway. Others have challenged the $292,215 cost to renovate the building.

However, city officials have insisted that the new location is accessible and central for visitors to walk to services like restaurants and hotels. It has also stated that closing down the current tourism booths at the north and south ends of Vernon and centralizing services will save $70,000 annually.

Until a decision is made by the Ministry of Transportation on rezoning, the lease at the south tourism booth, by the army camp, has been extended until the end of June.

“It will reopen until such time as it’s relocated,” said Kim Flick,  planning and building services manager.