Transit project idles as doubts surface

Last-minute doubts have stalled a major transportation project in downtown Vernon.

City council decided Monday to withhold a decision on changes to Cenotaph Park as part of a new transit bus terminus on 31st Avenue, although the initiative has been on the books for years and a call for tenders was expected to be issued next week.

“Cenotaph Park has a real significance in this community and that gets lost in this,” said Coun. Patrick Nicol.

“I don’t see a whole bunch of buses adding to that place.”

City staff has been asked to come back with more information April 11, but some politicians are suggesting that block of 31st Avenue be abandoned and the transit terminal be moved to the former Coldstream Hotel site, which the city owns.

“Why can’t it be on the next block up?” said Nicol.

Council endorsed the transit terminal next to Cenotaph Park in July 2010, but what touched off reconsideration Monday was plans to remove two 70-year-old trees.

“I have a real problem with taking trees out,” said Coun. Jack Gilroy.

An arborist’s report indicates that one of the trees along the northern property line could live for another 20 years if undisturbed, but roots could be damaged by sidewalk.

One tree has fungal growth and could live for 10 to 15 years if undisturbed.

“You will see more trees in there although not as large,” said Rob Dickinson, engineering general manager, of the plan to replace the trees cut down.

Staff defend the current proposal, saying a transit terminal in the 3000 block of 31st Avenue will be close to public services and restricting that portion of road to buses only will not adversely affect parking.

“We see this as an opportunity to turn Cenotaph Park into a more vibrant and active place,” said Cleo Corbett, long-range planner.

“To have a transit terminus means people will be moving throughout the site.”

The first design for the 31st Avenue proposal was done in January 2009 and went to the public for input in April 2009.

“We heard back from people that this is the location they like,” said Dickinson.

Support for the present concept comes from Coun. Shawn Lee.

“Sometimes we have to cut down a tree for something that’s greater for the area,” he said.

“We will plant a tree and the tree will grow.”

Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe is concerned calls to relocate the transit terminus to the Coldstream Hotel site could restrict downtown revitalization.

“That Coldstream lot is valuable in terms of how we develop it or even if we sell it,” she said.

B.C. Transit is picking up 47 per cent of the $805,000 cost of the transit terminus at Cenotaph Park, but it’s not known if that money would be available for another site.