Parks peace plan panned

Former councillor suggests Vernon's interests are not being met in agreement

We have been recently informed that the protracted efforts to get along at the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee regarding parks have been rewarded with a memorandum of understanding recently signed at the regional district office.

At the same time, we were told that the yet to be ratified agreement is a compromise and we were warned not to cherry-pick the document or it might, “open up a whole panorama.” That well-meaning counsel notwithstanding, I think the taxpayers of Vernon should be informed of some of details of the cherries found by this picker.

The trade of Vernon-owned Kal Beach and its parking lot to the RDNO for RDNO-owned lots on Lakeshore Road is not an equitable deal. The City of Vernon has title to the Coldstream property assessed at $20 million. The decades owned parcel is zoned residential. The Lakeshore Road properties total $7 million.

If the deal is approved by Vernon council, Vernon gets the lots in which it already has a 67 per cent interest by virtue of being at the GVAC table.

The potential sale of these lots by COV comes with strings, i.e. proceeds back to parks as these properties were purchased by RDNO or signed over previously by the city. In the deal, the regional district would get Kal Beach and its parking lot.

It is again instructive to compare the two parcels. The Kal Beach property is complete while the Lakeshore Road properties are not all adjoining, making future development by the City of Vernon both difficult and expensive as other land acquisitions would be necessary.

These purchases would be the sole burden of the Vernon taxpayers. In addition, the Lakeshore Road properties are accessed from the west by a road whose ownership is occasionally in dispute. Again, I maintain in my view that this is not an equitable trade.

But a legitimate question could be raised. Are not we really just considering a trade with ourselves? Vernon, after all, is part of the regional district and has a voice at the table. In fact did Vernon not recently become entitled to an additional seat by virtue of the last census?

That being the case, we should be confident that the interests of the Vernon taxpayers would be well represented in the future considerations regarding parks including Kal Beach.

Perhaps not. Let’s look at another cherry.

The parks MOU outlines a customized voting schedule that would require super majorities to send certain types recommendations to RDNO board for ratification.

These stipulations would eliminate the potential influence that Vernon’s additional vote might have had for all but the most routine matters at GVAC. In effect, matters that Vernon feels are important might never get to RDNO table, where the final decisions are made.

Perhaps this is why our representatives took the position of designating Polson Park as a local park instead of being sub-regional. Maybe after some thought on what was coming, our directors were not willing to trust the park to the new sub-regional status and all that would entail.

Ironic, since our representatives supported the change in voting procedures in the MOU.

Retaining Polson as a local park, in spite of its obvious sub-regional character, places the entire financial burden of its maintenance and $10 million improvement plan on the Vernon taxpayer.

These costs are presently shared at the regional district.

The banner line reporting the signing of the MOU read ‘Directors Reach Peace Over Parks.’

I believe that Vernon taxpayers need to ask their own city councillors, peace at what cost?

Shawn Lee

Former Vernon councillor