A number of questions have been raised regarding the proposed purchase of Centennial Field. In this article, the second in a three-part series, I will provide answers to the most common questions. A public meeting will be held on Sept. 12, 6-8 p.m. at the Shuswap Lake Estates Lodge where all questions may be addressed.
Q. Why would the CSRD proceed to buy the property, then ask for voter assent for the financing? Is that appropriate process?
A. The offer to purchase Centennial Field is conditional upon a number of requirements being satisfied, and voter assent was one of those conditions. The purchase cannot be concluded if voter assent is not achieved. It is incorrect and misleading to infer that the CSRD process was anything but above board and in the best interests of the public trust. Some have suggested we should have got voter assent before making an offer, that we should have reviewed all the other options in public, and then get approval to complete and finance the offer. This suggestion is not actually workable. Let’s note that some of the properties reviewed were not for sale which creates a number of critical privacy concerns, and is why this process must be conducted in camera as provided for in the Local Government Act.
Q. Didn’t Shuswap Lake Estates offer this land for free?
A. Over the past six or seven years there were several offers made, but each of them had significant issues. One offer was for the CSRD to move Blind Bay Road behind the pumphouse, ending up with a sliver of property between the road and the lake. This wasn’t SLE (Shuswap Lake Estates) land to donate to start with as the foreshore and road allowance belongs to the province. The cost to move the road was estimated at $900,000 to $1,200,000 for maybe two acres of land, and Centennial Field would end up being mostly higher density residences. This wasn’t a good deal, it wasn’t a community park and it was unnecessary duplication as we already have two beach parks with inadequate parking. Then the offer evolved to the Barkers paying for road relocation, but in the end this offer wasn’t acceptable to the Ministry of Transportation, and still resulted in no community park and higher density residences. Some have suggested the entire parcel was offered for free; that simply isn’t true. If it was, we would already have a community park.
Q. This park is in Blind Bay. Why should other areas like Sorrento, Eagle Bay, Sunnybrae and White Lake have to help pay for it?
A. Parks is an Area C-wide function in Area C, which means that all residents contribute to fund all parks. It’s the same with our fire suppression service; we all help each other out paying for new fire halls and equipment. Blind Bay is the most populous settlement area and contributes the greatest proportion of taxes to Area C by far. Park improvements in Sunnybrae, Sorrento, Eagle Bay and White Lake in recent years were paid with taxes from Blind Bay, as well as everywhere else in Area C. We have a new park currently in development in Eagle Bay, and this will be paid for by Area C-wide funds. We just completed a number of improvements to Sunnybrae Park, and this was financed by Area C-wide funds, as was the new Sunnybrae-Tappen Fire Hall and waterworks. Blind Bay deserves and needs a community park and it’s fair and reasonable for all of the South Shuswap to contribute.
Q. The AAP process is sneaky and underhanded; a referendum should be used.
A. The CSRD board approved the AAP process because it saves about $28,000 versus costs of a referendum. There is information continually being provided from the CSRD via social media, media releases, the CSRD website, newspaper articles and a public meeting which will be held on Sept. 12. Whether a referendum or the AAP process is used, information is still being provided to voters; no information is being hidden just by using the AAP process. Given the magnitude of the community consultation for the Parks Plan, it was anticipated that most voters would support this initiative. The AAP process takes a minimum of 32 days versus 1-2 days for a referendum, so it can be more convenient for some. In addition, this method can inexpensively determine whether a full referendum is needed. Having said all this, I fully acknowledge and accept that many Area C residents do not like the AAP process, and given this, I intend to examine other alternatives for voter assent and our information processes going forward.
Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District