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?