Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, is a regular guest on Phil Johnson’s morning radio show on AM 1150. During his Aug. 5 appearance, he attempted to refute the assertions of Kelowna Legacy Group’s press release of July 30.

The Legacy Group was formed in 2019 and is comprised of concerned local citizens, whose focus is to delay or stop the sale/lease of the former RCMP site at 350 Doyle Ave.

This would allow time to facilitate more comprehensive public consultations and visioning efforts on the development possibilities of the four city owned lands in downtown Kelowna; namely the Memorial Arena, City Hall parking lot, the community theatre and the RCMP site.

In spite of community pushback, on June 11, the city awarded a 99-year lease to a developer to build a 13-story residential rental tower with a public walkway, ground level commercial space, parking and a small 6,000 square-foot cultural space.

The city feels it negotiated a good deal at $7 million, but that parcel of land, in combination with the other three civic properties, is invaluable to the community. While few details have been made public on the subject lease terms, it would appear that the payments are equivalent to approximately one month’s rent for a small downtown office or apartment.

What the city has done is to limit future councils on what could be envisioned. Surely, the current council could have come with more than just another condo tower benefiting 100 or so rental units. Would this be the best and highest use for our community?

What was the rush, especially during a pandemic?

The mayor stated the city compiled a broad cross section of engagement to develop a Civic Precinct Plan in 2015; which pointed the way to densification of this area.

Our point is that this plan is out dated, especially when you consider the substantial changes which have taken place throughout the city centre over the past five years, including numerous highrise condo developments, planned UBCO downtown campus and shifting market conditions.

A review of the Precinct report shows there was, in fact, very limited public engagement:

— Four meetings held with community groups

— Two workshops were attended by 64 citizens, with only 37 surveys submitted

— 75 citizens attended a public drop-in session

— 63 citizens attended an open house to view the finished report, with only 39 feedback surveys submitted

Given the size of Kelowna’s population, this limited engagement shows the report did not truly reflect the wider community’s interest or will.

Although the report outlines a good effort, it is stated within their conclusions, “While better participation by the public, in the various engagement opportunities was desirable, feedback from those in attendance showed support for the plan.”

The report admitted limited engagement.

Within the past year, The Legacy Group has gained the support of 600 followers who are concerned about these iconic parcels of City owned property.

The Legacy Group requests the city review the subject lease, with a goal to cancelling the contract. We ask for a refreshed Civic Precinct Plan with more comprehensive engagement that takes into consideration the four civic properties.

Voice your opinions to the mayor and council members.

Visit website for updates. It certainly has been proven globally that together, we can make a difference.

Kelowna Legacy Group Steering Committee – Ken Bessason, Laura Thurnheer and Les Bellamy