Chair says heritage group not consulted on sale of CN building

Historic CNR station was built in 1927.

Historic CNR station was built in 1927.

NEWS — The City’s decision to sell the historic CN station building to a private developer for $1 was made without asking the Kamloops Heritage Commission what it thought, says the group’s chairman.

Andrew Yarmie told The Armchair Mayor editor Mel Rothenburger and CBC’s Josh Pagé the sale came as a surprise to commission members. Pagé reported the interview on the Daybreak Kamloops show today.

“We weren’t asked,” Yarmie said. “Somehow we weren’t included in the picture.”

Asked about Yarmie’s concern, parks, recreation and culture director Byron McCorkell said the sale “doesn’t alter the heritage nature of the building. We just don’t happen to have title.”

News of the sale came through minutes of a December in-camera council meeting released last week.

Council voted 5-4 to approve the sale to the Culos Group, with Mayor Peter Milobar and councillors Nelly Dever, Tina Lange, Arjun Singh and Pat Wallace voting in favor. Councillors Nancy Bepple, Donovan Cavers, Marg Spina and Ken Christian opposed the motion.

The purchase and sale of land is dealt with confidentially and transactions are made public after they’re completed, so proper process was followed.

But Yarmie said the commission, whose mandate is to advise council on heritage matters, should have been consulted on the sale of the building, which was built in 1927.

“We’re selling off our heritage by selling off our buildings,” said Yarmie, adding it’s the same as if the Old Courthouse or Stuart Wood School were sold.

He said he’s sure Culos will look after the CN building but “it would have been safer to keep it in City control.”

McCorkell stressed the sale doesn’t affect the building’s heritage status. “The decision around the sale was done as a land transaction by the real estate people. In sobre second thought should the real estate guys have asked the question (about referring it to the heritage commission for comment)?

“Yes, it could have happened.”

Council’s resolution was to convert a lease on the building held by the Culos Group to ownership.

Under the City’s heritage commission bylaw, the group’s role is “to ensure that the heritage of the city of Kamloops is preserved.”

Cavers sits on the commission as City council’s liaison. He said he was concerned about consultation with the commission but didn’t know if a confidential land matter could be revealed to a group other than council.

He did, however, vote against the sale. “I basically said the heritage commission wouldn’t be in favor and that’s why I voted the way I did,” Cavers told The Armchair Mayor on Thursday.

Arts, culture and heritage manager Barb Berger could not be reached for comment.

Culos Group has a 99-year lease on the building but asked for ownership to facilitate development plans.

A 20-year heritage tax exemption will be shortened by four years as part of the agreement with Culos, which reportedly plans to add two one-storey buildings near the station designed in similar architectural style.

City council recently moved forward with a proposal from McCorkell to merge the heritage commission with the arts commission.

Terms of reference are being developed.

About Mel Rothenburger (9510 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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