The acquisition team representing Lake Country, Kelowna and the North Okanagan Regional District will meet Thursday to discuss options moving forward with an attempted purchase of the CN Rail corridor, with Lake Country looking to move to a referendum to help raise its $5 million portion of a $22 million tentative deal.
More than 10 per cent of Lake Country residents voted down the district’s attempts to borrow $2.6 million in a failed alternative approval process that has sent the partners back to the drawing board in attempting to secure financing for the deal, by a March 31 deadline.
The extension would be needed to hold a referendum on the question of whether or not the district can borrow $2.6 million, the same question that failed in the AAP. CN has not yet responded to the request for an extension.
“A referendum is our only option,” maintained Lake Country Mayor James Baker Monday morning. “The big issue is to protect the corridor and keep it public but this is also an investment for Lake Country. Even if Kelowna did agree to buy it all, that’s not a very good investment for Lake Country and for what we can do on the trail in the future. If it all belongs to Kelowna then we are dealing with the same of kind of thing we have in the south end.”
Baker was alluding to an area of Lake Country that remains inside City of Kelowna boundaries where talks have been ongoing in the past to try and re-acquire those lands, home to some industrial operations that pay taxes to Kelowna, but who operate in the heart of Winfield.
The main stumbling block in the district’s attempt to hold a referendum is the closing date on the deal of March 31. Initially the referendum wasn’t held because it couldn’t get done before March 31 but plans have been put in place to move forward with a referendum if CN Rail allows an extension.
A possible date would be May 9 in Lake Country, asking the entire population of Lake Country whether the district can borrow the $2.6 million at an estimated $10,000 to hold the referendum.
Baker says judging by the public support in the past week, he believes the referendum question would not only pass but the voter turnout would be very high.
“We’ve had huge support for people wanting to buy it so a lot of people will get out to vote,” he said.