An Oyama homeowner whose property is split by the CN Rail corridor says it’s time the District of Lake Country put all of its cards on the table and tell people the true costs of purchasing the CN Rail corridor.
Moira Day and her husband Colin—a former City of Kelowna councillor—are one of two property owners who have a restrictive covenant covering the CN Rail corridor on their property, giving them first-right-of-refusal to purchase the corridor should it not be used as a railway.
The Day’s finalized their agreement with CN in 2010 after years of negotiation, after moving to the lakefront property in Oyama in 1985. The rail tracks run just a few metres away from the Day household and split their property.
Day says the restrictive covenant the two property owners have isn’t the only issue residents in the area are concerned about.
“I just wish Lake Country would be totally honest and recognize the issues that are out there,” said Day. “Unless the public knows all the issues and the potential costs how can anyone make an informed decision? That’s democracy. It’s not democracy when things are withheld.”
Lake Country is going to referendum on April 25 asking taxpayers to authorize the borrowing of $2.6 million to go towards purchasing the trail in Lake Country. Kelowna will pay the other $2.6 million of Lake Country’s portion of the deal. The district will have to pay that back, over no set timeline and without interest for the first three years. The total negotiated cost to buy the corridor from CN is $22 million.
Lake Country director of engineering Michael Mercer said the overall purchase price of the corridor includes the two properties with right-of-first-refusal.
“If those residents exercise their right and purchase the parcels from CN first, the overall purchase price for local governments would be reduced by the equivalent amount and these funds can then be used by the municipality to purchase the parcels back from the owners,” he said.
Lake Country also said specifics on land and legal negotiations are generally confidential until concluded.
For Day, a mother of four grown children who all reside in Lake Country and grandmother to eight, she says they haven’t decided what they are going to do when it comes to their right-of-first-refusal but says she won’t be voting for the acquisition of the rail corridor due to future costs that right now are unknown.
“We’re not against the idea of a trail,” she said. “The idea of the trail is wonderful but to take something that is private and make it public impacts everyone that lives close to it. How many other issues are out there? My bottom line is, make an honest budget and let the people have an educated vote. I think people have a right to know what the true costs could be. I can see a legacy of a lot of debt because of all the ongoing costs and we’re a pretty small community.”
Proponents of the deal say there wont be added costs in the future as groups such as the Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative have committed to raising $5 million with the chance to leverage grant money to double that for development of the trail.
But opponents say there will be extra costs associated with opening what was a private railway and making it a public trail with things like policing, maintenance and development as well as other unknowns.
Kelowna, Lake Country and the North Okanagan Regional District are in the process of due diligence, attempting to remove subjects to the $22 million deal with Lake Country’s April 25 referendum a key part of the deal.