ARMCHAIR ARCHIVES – Handling of parkade incompetent or brilliant?

Will Heritage House parking lot be developed? (Image: Mel Rothenburger)

The following Armchair Mayor column was published Oct. 12, 2011 as the proposal for a parkade in the Heritage House parking lot came to a conclusion:

AS THE COUNTING gets underway on the parkade petition, let’s reflect upon how we got into this mess.

Whether you are a parkade lover or a parkade hater, the choices are the same — City council is A) guilty of stunning political ineptitude, or B) must be credited with an unwavering and admirable commitment to a concrete pillbox for storing cars.

First, an abbreviated chronology:

MARCH 2000 — The eventual need for a third downtown parkade is identified.

NOVEMBER 2004 — City inks tentative deal to purchase the Levesque property kitty corner from Sportmart Place/ Interior Savings Centre for $2 million, for parking.

AUGUST 2008 — With the knowledge that a third downtown parkade has been recommended for at least eight years, City council announces the sale of the Levesque property to developer Tom Gaglardi for a hotel. It is later revealed that Gaglardi refused the City’s proposal to include public parking in his hotel, and that the sale went ahead with no strings attached.

OCTOBER 2010 — City staff floats a single option for the third parkade — a three-level building on the property in front of Heritage House across Lorne Street from the land it had sold two years before. Coun. Denis Walsh doesn’t like it. Coun. Tina Lange calls it “brilliant.”

OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 2010 — Protests against the location are well underway.

NOVEMBER 2010-JANUARY 2011 — While Mayor Peter Milobar insists there aren’t enough details about the parkade to share with the public yet, City staff quietly engage in private meetings with business groups including the chamber, BIAs and Tourism Kamloops to promote the plan. Council agrees to spend $84,000 on feasibility and geotechnical studies for a project that “isn’t a done deal.”

APRIL 2011 — After six months of waiting for public release of details on the parkade plan, frustrated residents form the Kamloops Voters Society to demand more consultative local government…. A City poll shows 69 per cent oppose the parkade; Lange says she doesn’t believe it.

MAY 3, 2011 — Mayor Peter Milobar unveils a last-minute alternative for a two-storey parkade costing just under $8 million. Council, ignoring its own poll, jumps at it.

MAY 5, 2011 — David Trawin, the City’s engineering and development services manager, suggests that building the parkade to accommodate a later third level would be “prudent.” Council later rejects Walsh’s attempt to legislate a covenant against a third story, instead approving the Trawin option.

AUGUST 2011 — Council approves a borrowing bylaw for $8 million; counter petition begins.

THIS WEEK — Counter petition finishes with way more signatures than needed. Milobar says if they’re validated he’ll recommend further study on parkade options.

So, in a nutshell, mayor and council sold a property that was supposed to be reserved for a parkade, then decided it must build one across the street adjacent to Riverside Park.

It dragged its feet on public input, then ignored the public input it got. It refused to put the matter to a referendum in connection with the November election, raising the possibility of an expensive stand-alone referendum.

It approved a two-level parkade but virtually made certain it will eventually become three levels.

And it spent $280,000 toward a project that may well now be null and void.

So, is it A, or B?

About Mel Rothenburger (8047 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.

8 Comments on ARMCHAIR ARCHIVES – Handling of parkade incompetent or brilliant?

  1. woodskid // May 4, 2018 at 3:43 PM // Reply

    As described in this riveting account, what’s also interesting is that from Nov. 2010 into early 2011 the city quietly engaged in private meetings with business groups while claiming there were not enough details to go public. Sound familiar? So in this round there have been private meetings and the same claim – not ready to have the public involved. So, two questions: One, did the city or the market enthusiasts propose the site? And, my gosh after so much self-inflicted folly and costs, why is the city still determined to get covered parking at that location?

  2. Raymond Nyuli // May 4, 2018 at 11:51 AM // Reply

    Although not directly part of the same chain of events the chronology should include the CPR offering the City the land on the SE corner of Lorne and 3rd for, I think, $1. The City inexplicably declined.

  3. Bob Gamble // May 4, 2018 at 9:14 AM // Reply

    City I honestly believe staff should have absolutely nothing to do with negotiating land sales. I’m not sure what Department does the negotiations but if it is Development and Engineering double the concern. It seems driving up permit value year-after-year is the goal. Anything for a development.

    Most recently is the recent screw up with allotted parking spaces on the McGill development.

    If a third party was brought in, then at least someone would be held accountable.

    • Mel Rothenburger // May 4, 2018 at 10:21 AM // Reply

      The city has a real estate dept. that handles its land matters.

      • Bob Gamble // May 4, 2018 at 12:12 PM //

        THKS for the info.

        Maybe it’s off topic but it seems when the City staff gets heavily involved with a developer; it becomes hard to differentiate between the two. As the project migrates along the developer fades into the background and the staff becomes the face of the project. Once the staff recommends approval their role converts to becoming cheerleaders. If optics means anything, it is an unhealthy relationship for the residents.

  4. John Noakes // May 4, 2018 at 6:53 AM // Reply

    This proposal is for a piece of ground that is in a flood plain.
    Simple: why would anyone consider a below-ground level of parking in a flood plain?
    Maybe I am missing something far more obvious.
    Let’s wait until late June or early July this year to see if my question is a valid one.

    • Grouchy 1 // May 4, 2018 at 10:16 AM // Reply

      Nobody ever accused the ” brain trust ” at city hall of making sense.

    • Cynthia Friedman // May 4, 2018 at 10:38 AM // Reply

      I agree! That is the most obvious problem to me – a structural issue rather than a land usage one. To be below-ground near a river? It would have to be engineered like the Massey Tunnel. It would cost an absolute fortune to render it up-to-code. Honestly, the latest proposal takes the D’oh cake.

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