Scott Anderson approves of the new cultural centre slated for downtown Vernon.
What the Vernon councillor doesn’t care for is an alternate approval process initiated by the Regional District of North Okanagan to borrow an increased dollar amount to help pay for it.
In November, RDNO’s board of directors authorized staff to amend the Greater Vernon Multi-Purpose Cultural Facility loan authorization bylaw from a maximum borrowing of $25 million to a maximum of $28 million, with electoral approval to be obtained by an alternate approval process for the entire proposed service area. That would include the City of Vernon, District of Coldstream and regional district electoral areas B and C.
The alternate approval process means 10 per cent of eligible voters in the Greater Vernon area only (includes Coldstream and the electoral areas) would have to defeat the bylaw in order for the project to be halted.
A referendum was held with the municipal elections in 2018 that passed, allowing RDNO to borrow up to $25 million for the facility, which was proposed to be located in downtown Vernon at the corner of 29th Street and 31st Avenue, city-owned property known as the Vernon Block.
“Residents of Greater Vernon voted for the cultural centre and I did, too, I’m in favour of it,” said Anderson. “But they voted for it with specific conditions and when those conditions were not met – in my opinion and the opinion of other people – public consent was effectively withdrawn. The RDNO also recognizes this since the whole alternate approval process is to establish consent through governing bodies.
“In my opinion, and the opinion of others, this is an attempt at an end run around the public. Or at least it looks like that.”
The cultural centre would house the museum and art gallery, along with a flexible community/presentation space. It would be at least two storeys high situated on 30,200 square feet of the Vernon Block.
The archives and reading room would remain in the current location at the City of Vernon’s Civic Complex.
Anderson offered up a pair of solutions: wait until conditions are met, that is, receiving a provincial grant, or start an entirely new referendum dropping conditions.
“The public voted for something, they’re not getting that something, now the governing bodies are doing it anyway,” he said. “It leaves a bad taste. I won’t be voting for this.”
Mayor Victor Cumming said the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to RDNO, is very clearly ‘not going to do it anyway.’
“That’s why there is the formal alternate approval process,” said Cumming. “If they contradicted conditions, that would be ‘doing it anyway.’ If a number of folks share your views they have a process they can articulate that will defeat this at this point in the process.”
Coun. Kari Gares questioned going to another referendum.
“Time will tell if enough of the community steps up to the plate to say nay,” she said.
Council voted 5-1 with Anderson opposed to support the alternate approval process.