Letter: Day family dispute sure to cost Lake Country taxpayers

Letter to the editor from Ron Volk re: the civil suit between Colin Day and the District of Lake Country

To the editor:

So now it has come down to this.

Please let me give everyone a little history of what has happened here.

The Day family bought their property in the early 1980s. At that time or soon after they found out that CNR put the railroad through their property at the wrong location.

When they approached CN on this, CN acknowledged their mistake and made an agreement with the Days that if this rail line ever closed down the Days would have first option to buy the rail line property that went through their property.

This was done in the form of a covenant which was on the property at the land registration office in Kamloops. In 2014, CN said they would be shutting the rail line down forever and the Day family exercised their option and bought the land.

By buying this land and combining it with the land that their house sat on it came out to roughly three acres which is not in the ALR and so it became very valuable lakeshore property.

If they would have tried to sell this property before with the railroad going through it they would not have got much for it.

However, with the railroad now gone the property totally escalated in value.

However now with the rail trail going through the property the value reverts back to where it was when the rail line went through it.

In 2014, the District of Lake Country announced along with the city of Kelowna and Coldstream that they would be purchasing the rail corridor from CN to make it into a walking-biking trail from Kelowna to Vernon and the Lake Country portion for the purchase would be $5.6 million. Payment would be made by borrowing $2.5 million and the City of Kelowna would lend them the rest to be paid back at a later date.

They also said they would hold a referendum to see if the people were OK with this. During the referendum there was a lot of opposition to this purchase and people like myself believed it would cost the district a lot more because of the cost of extra things they would have to do to make the trail.

One of these extra costs would be dealing with the Day family who now owned the land where the trail was to go. I pointed this out to the public in a letter to the editor in all the local newspapers.

Mayor James Baker and Duane Thomson, from the Rail For Trail group, were going around telling everyone not to worry that it was all taken care of.

So fast forward to today and here we have the Day family suing the District of Lake Country for expropriating their land for way under market value.

The Days really have no choice as they will never get that land back and must now fight to protect their family asset and get fair market value for it.

I have known the Day family for 25 years and owned the property right beside them where I built our house and lived for 14 years.

The Day family are very community minded people who do not want to hold the trail up and have been in negotiations with the Inter-Jurisdictional Development Team to come up with a fair settlement.

They have offered to put the trail through their orchard which would give them more privacy, they offered to put the trail half in the orchard and half on the rail right-of-way, they offered to sell all three acres to the district and in fact were still in negotiations with the Jurisdictional Team when the district expropriated their land.

I found out about two months ago that the district had expropriated the Day property and so I sent an email to Tanya Garost, chief financial officer for the district, wanting to know how much they had paid for the property.

I asked to include all legal fees and any other monies pertaining to the expropriation. I thought the taxpayers should know how much was spent on this transaction.

She sent me an email back saying that the district had paid for the Day property but any additional details on this matter are still considered in-camera by the district council.

So I found it very interesting the other day when Mayor Baker told the media that he was very surprised to learn of the lawsuit. Was he not at the in-camera meetings and besides they would have to have a motion in council in order to expropriate this land.

I would suggest that Baker knew this lawsuit was coming after expropriating the Day property for peanuts and they have made a very big mistake by not taking the Days up on their offer to put the trail through the family orchard.

This could have been done with no cost to the taxpayers whatsoever. He and the district are playing a very dangerous game here and it will end up costing the taxpayers of Lake Country a lot of money.

In closing, I wish the Day family all the best in the lawsuit and I urge all the taxpayers in Lake Country to demand that the mayor and the district be more open on this matter.

We all deserve to know how much this going to cost us.

Ron Volk,

Lake Country