A contentious Gable Road North bylaw was deferred by Lake Country city council in favour of working with the community to pay off Kelowna’s interest in Lake Country rail trail lands.
Roughly 50 residents filled the seats during Tuesday night’s regular council meeting, many of whom donned red shirts to show support for their petition which aims to preserve public beach access by Gable Road North.
The petition, when presented to city council during the meeting, gathered 1,523 signatures.
“The number we have at the moment, just to give you an idea, it’s actually more votes than you had to get elected last time Mayor Baker,” said Shaun Reed, with Friends of Gable Beach.
The issue began when three property owners approached the district requesting to purchase a strip of land at the Gable Beach Road end near Okanagan Lake. The potential sale drew criticism from the surrounding residents.
Approximately $1.1 million of the proposed sale would go towards reducing Kelowna’s interest in Lake Country Okanagan Rail Trail lands, according to the district. The negotiated amount for the properties was $1.34 million.
When Lake Country joined the multi-community group that purchased the Okanagan Rail Trail, the City of Kelowna paid for half of Lake Country’s portion of the trail in Lake Country, with the expectation it would be paid back within three years, or interest would start to accrue on the money, about $2.6 million.
This is not the first time council has heard from residents in the community regarding Gable Road North.
Carr’s Landing resident Cara Reed brought the issue to light in September, and brought up the Official Community Plan during the meeting, and protecting public land and access to the waterfront.
Numerous Lake Country residents addressed council and listed development issues with docks, environmental impacts and preserving public beach access with a growing population in Lake Country.
“Docks have been built high enough off the ground that I had to climb my way over them to access the beach,” said Carr’s Landing resident Bob Smith.
The crowd grew unruly when Mayor Baker referenced the OCP and beach access for everyone.
Coun. Penny Gambell suggested an alternative motion to passing the bylaw which would close Gable Road end. She said there is money that can be used out of the park acquisition fund, of about $1.6 million, that could go towards paying for the rail trail.
There is also $500,000 more available because it’s been a busy development year, she said.
A vast majority of the letters received were against the bylaw, said Gambell. “As a councillor, I believe I have an obligation to listen to those people here.”
Coun. Rob Geier seconded the motion, saying “I don’t want to be the council that gave up that property, I don’t think that’s the legacy we want in Lake Country.”
Coun. Jeanette Lambert supported the road closure bylaw, listing other parks available in the community, and Coun. Bill Scarrow and Coun. Blair Ireland said the district has a commitment to repay the City of Kelowna.
Coun. Ireland said he doesn’t see another way to pay off Kelowna’s interest than to sell the land.
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