Greater Vernon politicians are presenting a unified front over the location of a sports complex.
Officials are scrambling after a Regional District of North Okanagan staff report suggested the Kin Race Track property is a possible option, along with Okanagan College, for a track and field facility.
“I have no idea where that came from,” said Mike Macnabb, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson.
“There’s just one location in my mind. I fully support the track being at the college.”
Macnabb says Kin Race Track is not suitable because of ongoing legal action between RDNO and the Okanagan Equestrian Society over use of the 43rd Avenue property.
The college site also has the endorsement of Vernon Mayor Rob Sawatzky.
“There were no other sites identified in the process,” he said.
Discussions between Okanagan College and RDNO took place over three years and a 40-year lease agreement was reached in 2010. The provincial Agricultural Land Commission has also agreed to a sports complex as a non-farm use there.
“That’s the only site we’ve been committed to,” said Patrick Nicol, regional district chairperson.
Nicol insists that staff’s reference to Kin Race Track is not an indication of a policy change.
“It was simply a mention of that item in a report but the full focus has always been on the college lands.”
Jim Garlick, Coldstream mayor, says the process for the college must continue because of the time and effort directed there.
“I don’t have anything against Kin Race Track but there are too many unknowns (with the legal action),” he said.
Macnabb believes the origins of the staff report need to be investigated.
“This is not about a witch hunt but we want a clear message to residents and we don’t want to muddy the waters,” he said.
GVAC has directed staff to move towards a borrowing referendum for $8.5 million for a complex.
“There’s a real opportunity there but the public will have the ultimate say,” said Nicol.
The proposed facility has the support of minor football, soccer clubs, track and field groups, the hospital’s cardiac care program.
It’s been suggested the complex could encourage health and recreation programs at the college and lead to Greater Vernon hosting events like the B.C. Summer Games.
“If there’s a healthy conversation, I believe the public will support our young people and older people who will benefit from the facility,” said Nicol.
Garlick, though, says the $8.5 million recommended by staff must be reviewed further.
“Starting out, we weren’t talking about such large numbers,” he said of the $6 million originally proposed.
A date has not been selected for a referendum but it could be held this fall or next spring.