A Lake Country councillor says it would be a mistake for residents to vote no on purchasing the CN Rail corridor and open the doors for the City of Kelowna to purchase the majority of the corridor, including 16 kilometres running through Lake Country.
Although there is no set plan to replace a possible $2.6 million shortfall should Lake Country residents vote no to borrowing its share of the cost in an April 25 referendum, Oyama councillor Owen Dickie says it’s imperative that residents don’t give Kelowna, or anyone else, the chance to own the corridor by voting no in the referendum.
“If they (Kelowna) put in the majority of the money they have the majority of the control on the corridor,” said Coun. Owen Dickie, responding to a question at a yes campaign open house on Monday night in Lake Country. “They’re not going to come forward and pay the majority of the shares and then not expect to have the majority of control. That’s one reason why we incorporated: So we could get out from underneath the City of Kelowna. We could lose control of the asset (if we vote no).”
Dickie made the comments as hundreds of people gathered at the information session in Lake Country where residents heard from several groups including Friends of the South Slopes and volunteers who helped build the Mission Greenway in Kelowna as well as other trail groups ahead of the referendum in Lake Country.
Dickie said losing control to Kelowna would allow the larger municipality to have control of prime land going though Lake Country and pointed to the issue of Kelowna’s city boundary’s which currently extend toward Lake Country and include several industrial operations that pay taxes to the City of Kelowna.
“I do know the corridor is going to be sold—there are no ifs, ands or buts—and it’s my feeling we have to maintain control of the corridor regardless,” said Dickie. “There is some discussion now with people saying ‘why would we buy this because Kelowna is just going to step forward if we don’t.’ I see it as any individual or group owning the corridor in Lake Country, other than the District of Lake Country, is a threat to Lake Country.”
Residents both for and against the rail corridor purchase were in attendance on Monday raising questions about the purchase.
Long-time Oyama resident Allan Gatzke said while the corridor goes from Kelowna to Coldstream, the greatest impact of the purchase will be felt in Oyama where some homes are within only a few feet of the corridor.
“If you look at some of the properties along the track you will see how easy it is for someone to vote no,” said Gatzke, whose family owns land that is split by the corridor. “For those of us not affected in that way it’s hard to understand why anyone would vote no. I would not want to sleep in that bedroom that is just a few metres away from the track.”
Gatzke said his family would prefer to keep the privacy that they have now with the abandoned CN corridor but added it is for the greater benefit of the community and all of the positives that come with purchasing the corridor, that they are supporting the purchase.
“Voting yes for the railway is not our first choice,” said Gatzke. “We would prefer to maintain our privacy and security. But voting no is not the choice. The things that come along with a no vote…in the case of Oyama it would mean little or no beach available to the public. The economic driver (of a trail) won’t come with a no vote.”
Advance polls open Wednesday in Lake Country as residents are being asked to approve the district’s borrowing bylaw. If approved the final $2.6 million of a $22 million dollar deal between CN Rail and Kelowna, Lake Country and the North Okanagan Regional District will be in place.