Two open houses in Lake Country were well-attended last week as the district laid out its plans to borrow money to purchase part of the CN Rail corridor running through Lake Country.
Members of the inter-jurisidictional purchasing team as well as Lake Country staff and councillors were all in attendance at the open houses, one held at Lake Country municipal hall Jan. 22 and the other held at the Oyama Community Hall on Jan. 21.
Over 130 residents turned out combined at the two open houses which laid out the plans for the purchase of the CN Rail corridor as well as explained the Alternative Approval Process and provided electoral response forms for those opposed to the planned deal.
“We wanted there to be an opportunity to come and see the extent of the purchase, what we are buying,” said Lake Country mayor James Baker. “There were good crowds at both meetings and people asked a lot of questions.”
With a plan to raise taxes by 1.68 per cent over 20 years to borrow $2.6 million, Lake Country is in the midst of the Alternative Approval Process, where residents can sign a petition against the borrowing and if 10 per cent of the electorate (about 900 resident) is opposed, the borrowing plan fails.
To date there have been 440 forms picked up and 67 of them returned with signatures in opposition to the purchase. The AAP process will run until Feb. 23 at noon.
Baker said there were several people who came into the open houses questioning the district’s motives in spending the money, with other financial issues facing Lake Country such as a roads and infrastructure deficit.
“Some people started out by saying we should be doing other things with our money but when we explained that we are doing other things within the regular budget and this is a one-time opportunity without huge tax implications many people were supportive,” he said. “People I have talked with are quite open-minded and wanted to see what it’s about.”
Among the questions those in attendance faced included questions about the finances of the deal, which includes Kelowna purchasing a $2.5 million portion of the CN Rail line in Lake Country and the district paying Kelowna back for it and acquiring the entire portion through Lake Country over time.
In all, Lake Country is planning to put out $5 million of the $22 million asking price to buy the rail corridor from CN. The district has no plans for further information sessions for the public in the process and has information laid out on its web site at okanaganway.ca