Wharton property should not be sold

The Summerland Review’s Sept. 26 editorial discussed the Wharton Street development.

Dear Editor:

The Summerland Review’s Sept. 26 editorial  discussed the Wharton Street development.

There are portions of that editorial that I strongly disagree with.

Firstly, it stated “the library and the museum are both in desperate need of new and larger facilities.”

With respect to the museum, this statement was once true but no longer the case.

In the past, the museum leased storage facilities, at a cost of $3,300 per year. Now the museum is using the basement of the new RCMP building for storage and the need for additional space is no longer required.

In fact once the museum’s remaining storage room is emptied, there may be enough room in the museum to expand to add a much needed classroom. Lack of museum space has been resolved.

Secondly, the Wharton Street proposal was a Public-Private-Partnership whereby Summerland  transfers ownership of our lands to the developer in exchange for construction costs for a new museum/library/cultural centre.

The editorial states “the need for housing units.”

If the goal of our community is to densify the downtown core, one does not do that by selling off municipal lands.

As a rule, densification is encouraged by modifying development costs and requirements on privately owned lands.

Municipalities don’t sell off publicly owned lands, at the very centre of a community, at reduced prices.

In fact, as densification increases, there is increased need for preservation of  public open spaces.

When the concept of selling municipal lands was first proposed, I challenged municipal staff to provide council with an example of one other B.C. community that sold the centre of the community to a developer. After seven years, staff have not found a similar example.

This is echoed in the land appraisal. The appraiser could not find a comparable example of a property at the very core of a community.

Also the appraiser could not find a comparable property of similar zoning and especially  of similar density of development.

If  the idea of selling  land in the centre of Summerland is ever reconsidered, let’s  have a referendum.

The public will be clearly informed about how much money we are getting for the sale of our land  and the public will see the completed appearance of the entire  project, not just one building, as was the case in this latest proposal.

David E. Gregory

 

Summerland