By ROY WOOD
About 100 people dropped by the Elks Hall Monday evening hoping to get information or to vent their unhappiness about the proposal for a new hotel on the Centennial RV Park site.
What was billed as a question-and-answer session turned out to be an informal, quasi-social affair with Oliver council members and senior staff mingling with skeptical townsfolk and chatting up the positive aspects of the development.
One unhappy attendee said he had expected a panel of people and a microphone so the public could ask questions. “And I wanted to give them a piece of my mind,” he said.
At issue is a proposal for a $10-million, 80-room hotel on the town-owned site occupied by the Centennial RV Park, west of the Okanagan River and north of Fairview Road.
Ron Mundi, who owns the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Convention Centre, has agreed to buy the site for $572,000 in cash and improvements. His hotel would benefit from about $330,000 in municipal tax exemptions over 10 years.
Monday’s question-and-answer session was scheduled as a lead-up to a public hearing into an Official Community Plan amendment and rezoning to allow the development to proceed. The hearing, however, had to be postponed because the town failed to meet its public notice requirements.
It has been re-scheduled for May 23. It will be preceded by another Q&A, this one with a panel to answer questions and nametags for council and senior staff.
Most of the people at the Monday’s session seemed generally in favour of a new hotel for Oliver, but opposed to losing the Centennial Park site.
Councillor Mo Doerr wasn’t surprised that most of the comments she heard were negative. “All the nay-sayers are here,” she said.
Town chief administrative officer Cathy Cowan said that she was “getting people from both sides.” The main reasons for the objections, she said, was the concern about losing park space, even though the site has never been a public park.
Resident Melba McGeachy said she would be sad to lose the trees in the RV park and even though she doesn’t use the area herself, she enjoys “seeing the people using and enjoying the park.”
One of the arguments that anti-hotel voices cite is a collection of trees that they purport was given to the town as part of the 1958 BC centennial celebration. A “fact sheet” handed out by the town at the Q&A said there is “no proof that the trees planted belong to another province or territory; nothing proves that they were planted for another purpose than beautification.”
McGeachy said she was a friend of the late Rose Shingler, a member of the town’s centennial committee. “I’m here for Rose,” she said.
There were some hotel proponents present at Monday’s session, including Jill Lawson of the Oliver Tourism Association.
She cited the economic benefits of the hotel, particularly in relation to downtown revitalization, jobs and capturing tourist dollars in the town. “We are losing tourists to Penticton and Osoyoos,” she said.
People attending Monday’s Q&A were invited to fill out a “feedback form” on whether they support the OCP and zoning changes.
Cowan said about 50 were collected and, once the addresses are checked, they will be collated and put in the “public hearing folder” for members of council, who will ultimately make the decision.
Council later in the evening reversed a decision and will hold a short question and answer session prior to the public hearing May 23 at 5:30pm at the Elks Hall.