Instead of battling across the net from one another, the City of Vernon and Vernon Pickleball Association (VPA) are now on the same side of the court.
Coun. Akbal Mund motioned to postpone a number of staff recommendations that went against requests to the city from the VPA, which was unanimously supported (Coun. Kelly Fehr was absent from Tuesday’s council meeting). Mund then motioned to form a committee consisting of himself, administrator Will Pearce and city real estate manager Brett Bandy to work with the VPA to resolve some outstanding issues.
“Hopefully we conclude with an agreement between the city and Vernon Pickleball Association moving forward,” said Mund.
The VPA first approached the Regional District of North Okanagan, then in charge of parks, to build 12 courts at Marshall Field. RDNO estimated the cost to build the facility at $1.4 million. The association countered with $600,000 and building the courts themselves. RDNO agreed and contributed a $300,000 grant. VPA raised more than $100,000 and contributed plenty of what they termed “sweat equity” into the project, and also took a loan of $145,000 from the city to help with construction costs.
The association appeared as a delegation at the last regular council meeting April 8 wanting to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the city. VPA president Rob Irving also asked that the city relocate a fire hydrant near the courts and felt the city’s request for the association to add additional parking was unfounded.
City staff had recommended to council prior to Mund’s first motion that council require free public access to the pickleball courts on an ongoing basis, as substantially proposed by the VPA, and that recreation services be responsible for the booking of the public times on the courts.
Staff, though, suggested the VPA relocate the existing waterline underneath the courts and the fire hydrant, as per recommendations by a consulting firm and Vernon Fire Rescue Services. The city also wanted the VPA to fulfill a requirement of additional parking as per the building permit issue.
Those issues will now be discussed by both sides.
“We think it’s a very positive step,” said Irving, one of about 20 members of the association in attendance at council Tuesday. “One of the things we’ve been lacking for quite some time now is meaningful dialogue, or any dialogue, and so getting a dialogue going with all the parties in the room is very positive.
“I’m confident there’s common ground to resolve the issues, embrace the wonderful courts we’ve constructed and have solutions that are fair to all concerned.”