Lake Country calls for public to make informed decision on CN Rail corridor purchase

With no campaign underway, District of Lake Country releases information to clarify details of the attempted purchase

The District of Lake Country released the following information this week as the timeline for people to submit electoral response forms in opposition of a borrowing bylaw that would allow Lake Country to purchase part of the CN Rail corridor.

Residents have until noon on Monday to sign a form and if 10 per cent of the community are opposed, the inter-jurisdictional group of Kelowna, Lake Country and the North Okanagan Regional District will have to find another way to raise the money to buy the corridor.

Here is the information released by Lake Country:

• If the Alternative Approval Process to borrow up to $2.6 million to acquire approximately 16 km of discontinued CN Rail corridor within Lake Country boundaries is successful, the average residential property valued at $475,000 may see a property tax increase of approximately $27 per year over a 20 year period, which is about $2.25 per household per month.

• Mayor and Council believe the purchase and protection of the rail corridor vital as an important piece of public land for the community. The implications affect the entire region, not just Lake Country.

• The interest on the borrowing is estimated at 2.94% and will be locked in for 10 years. After that it will be re-financed and locked in for a further 10 years.

• Kelowna is not loaning Lake Country money. They are investing $2.6 million in the land to make the purchase as affordable to citizens as possible and protect a vital piece of land that will benefit the entire region. There is no repayment schedule or obligation to purchase back. The sale of surplus lands, not taxation, will be applied directly to reducing Kelowna’s 50% interest.

• Maintenance and upgrades would be managed through the inter-jurisdictional acquisition team, with funding from senior government, participation by private citizens, organizations and companies as well as volunteers interested in land stewardship. Small groups of community advocates have made a huge difference in preserving corridors that are unquestioned assets in the valley today: the Beach Avenue boardwalk in Peachland was driven by Rotary contributions, the Mission Creek Greenway in Kelowna was driven by Friends of Mission Creek Society volunteers, the Myra Canyon trestles on the KVR were opened by Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society volunteers, the Gellatly Bay Waterfront walkway was driven by the volunteer Trail and Parks Society and numerous recreational paths in Lake Country have been spearheaded by Walk Around Lake Country (WALC) volunteers.

• Pelmewash Parkway is owned by the province and road maintenance is not the responsibility of the District. Confidential negotiations are ongoing with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the conditions of its transfer to the municipality. Through the public engagement process in 2013, Mayor and Council heard that the community was keen to have this transportation corridor used as an active recreation area.

• Land transactions are based on the value of the land not on population. The acquisition of land represents an asset to the District of Lake Country.

• The District’s long term debt ranking was 39th highest among 163 BC municipalities in 2012, trending downwards to 40th in 2013. Lake Country’s long term debt would increase by $2.6 million with the borrowing.