The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce is pushing for local governments to expedite the planning processes for a new cultural centre.
In a letter to the Regional District of North Okanagan, chamber president Krystin Kempton said the chamber worries the planning of the new multi-purpose facility is taking too long and there could be repercussions.
Our concern is that the process is taking some time and the public momentum before and after the referendum has been negatively impacted by this delay,” the June 18 letter said.
“That said, we believe now is the time to reinvigorate the initiative as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic downturn will likely result in senior governments placing significant dollars into infrastructure and stimulus projects,” Kempton wrote. “Greater Vernon needs to have a plan that is shovel-ready for when funding applications are launched.”
A 2018 referendum regarding the cultural centre delivered a yes with 7,850 voting in favour and 5,367 against.
The referendum asked voters if they were in favour of the RDNO authorizing a loan of up to $25 million to construct the multi-purpose cultural facility and authorize the establishment of a cultural service to operate it.
Kempton said the Chamber appreciates the recent decision to negotiate with the City of Vernon regarding the location and land costs for a centre, but pointed to the former Coldstream Hotel property on 31st Avenue, which “was clearly identified during the referendum.”
“There is a concern that going in a new direction with sites now will further delay the project,” she wrote. “We also believe that a downtown location is necessary to maximize economic benefits, specifically through new residential and commercial development downtown and bolstering cultural tourism.”
The chamber said the RDNO is also reviewing square footage of the facility “as a way of reducing overall costs.”
“While easing the financial burden on taxpayers should always be a priority, we would hope that the long-term needs of a growing community will be considered,” Kempton wrote, noting additions in the future are costly.
A new cultural centre would have benefits that are far-reaching, the chamber said, such as downtown renewal, a thriving economy and vibrant arts scene.
“But to get there, we, as a community, need to remain focused and that requires and expedited process.”