Close vote from Salmon Arm council upholds 2021 termination of Canoe Beach lease lots

A tie vote defeats move by three council members to search for a 'win-win' solution

Cabins at Canoe Beach, located on publicly owned land, are to be removed when their leases are terminated in 2021. (File photo)

Cabins at Canoe Beach, located on publicly owned land, are to be removed when their leases are terminated in 2021. (File photo)

In a vote that could not have been closer, city council upheld its 2016 decision to terminate the lease lots at Canoe Beach in 2021.

At the Aug. 12 council meeting, with six of seven members present (Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond was absent), the mayor and two councillors voted for council taking another look at the plan to terminate the leases in October 2021, while three councillors voted against the motion and for the status quo. The 2016 decision also stipulates that the lessees of the 28 lots, each a portion of one city-owned lot, remove their waterfront cabins by that time.

The tie vote Monday meant the motion failed, so there will be no change to the 2016 agreement.

Voting for another look at the decision were Mayor Alan Harrison and Couns. Kevin Flynn and Sylvia Lindgren. Voting against were Couns. Tim Lavery, Debbie Cannon and Chad Eliason.

During the sometimes tense discussions, Flynn acknowledged he was part of the 2016 council that unanimously supported the lease expiration plan for 2021. However, he said he’s not sure now if the city has the budget or plans to take over the land at that time.

He said perhaps the takeover could be phased in; that way the city wouldn’t be losing revenue from the leases without having the means to do something with the vacated beach.

Read more: Salmon Arm Council approves five-year extension

Read more: Salmon Arm council to revisit city lease of Canoe Beach cabin lots

Rob Niewenhuizen, director of engineering and public works, was asked about the cost of making the beach usable for the public.

He said if the city were to acquire the land with the lots cleared, it would entail installing a porta potty or outhouse for about $40,000, rough seeding a picnic area for approximately $20,000 and possibly paving a roadway halfway up the length of the property as it narrows at one end. He estimated the total cost would be between $50,000 and $100,000.

Harrison also changed his view from 2016, suggesting a small committee of himself, another councillor, a staff member and one or two of the lessees meet to see if a win-win plan for the taxpayers and the lessees could be reached. He said the city’s Canoe Beach Master Plan includes upgrading Canoe Beach, which needs a lot of work and could take five years.

Lindgren stated she might be the ideal counsellor to be on that committee, given that she’s new to council and has no history with the issue. She also said such a committee might buy some goodwill if, as one councillor mentioned, a lessee had said they might not remove the buildings from the property.

Lavery said he fully supports the direction council took in 2016 of returning a public amenity to the public.

He said it’s not that he doesn’t give weight to the wishes of the lessees, but there was complete clarity to the 2016 agreement, with a good faith gesture from the city of increasing the final lease period to five years and not increasing the fees.

Read more: City council back to the beach lots at Canoe

Read more: 2015 – City initiates planning process for Canoe Beach, Klahani Park

Read more: 2016 – Have your say on Canoe Beach

Cannon said the lease lots were a big issue when the official community plan was revised 13 years ago. She said she’s seen how much staff time has been taken up by them – by some lessees not paying, with litigation, with having to remove buildings – even if it has been caused by a few ‘bad apples.’

She said the total amount spent on legal fees “would be staggering.”

“A decision was made in 2016. I don’t think we should go back on it.”

A letter given to the lessees in 2016 stated: “Council’s decision aligns with both the City of Salmon Arm Official Community Plan, which designates that this area will be returned to parkland, and the Canoe Beach Master Plan, which envisions the area as an extension of the public beach.”

Eliason pointed to the Canoe Beach Master Plan, noting it arrived from a lot of public consultation. He asked if council’s plan is now to get a group of six people to revisit it. Harrison replied that the timing would be revisited, not the plan.

Eliason stated there was a lot of discussion in 2014 and 2015 leading up to the 2016 decision. He emphasized there’s been lots of legal work, lots of litigation and the final five-year term was a compromise that was voted on unanimously.

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