Middle ground appears unlikely as neighbours square off over the location of a prison.
The City of Kelowna will meet with the District of Lake Country and the Okanagan Indian Band Feb. 28 to try and resolve concerns over a proposed jail, but neither party is willing to budge from its opposition.
“How many times do we have to repeat ourselves? We do not want the facility,” said Fabian Alexis, band chief.
Kelowna council supports a correctional facility on provincially owned land at the former Hiram Walker Distillery site at the northern edge of the city. However, the OKIB and Lake Country, which are directly opposite the property, have long protested such a land use.
“We have safety concerns,” said Alexis, adding there are also economic values there.
“We have a five-star resort and our land valuation won’t be as high with a facility.”
Lake Country officials insist Kelowna can’t proceed with the matter unilaterally.
“Kelowna needs to understand the point of view of the district and the band,” said Coun. Noreen Guenther.
“I need to see benefits for Lake Country and currently there are none. I only see problems and no resources to deal with those problems.”
“Our infrastructure, like Beaver Lake Road doesn’t support this development. Lake Country roads can be impacted (by prison traffic) but Kelowna would get the government grant in lieu of property taxes,” she said.
The province has owned part of the Hiram Walker site for years, and the City of Kelowna approved rezoning for a prison in 1996.
Sharon Shepherd, Kelowna mayor, is concerned about comments coming from Alexis and Lake Country officials.
“Why did they agree to a meeting when the intention isn’t to have a big argument about this proposal,” she said.
“I’m trying to gather facts about a correctional facility, what it looks like and what are the economic benefits.”
Shepherd says the city recognizes a prison could place pressure on infrastructure.
“None of us have money in our budgets for making those improvements. Are there benefits we could be advocating together to have some agreement?” she said.
Presently, the Ministry of the Solicitor General is canvassing Okanagan communities to determine interest in hosting a facility.
Shepherd says the Jim Bailey Road site makes sense.
“This land is already rezoned and if you have to make a decision on the least impact to tax dollars, then this is the site you should build on,” she said.
If the north Kelowna site proceeds, Alexis says the band will consider its options.
“I can’t say right what we may do, now but we would certainly protest,” he said.