Sunday, April 24, 2016

Covenant, tourism collide

by Wayne Moore - CASTANET Apr 24, 2016 / 5:00 am
A decades-old covenant could scuttle Tourism Kelowna's plan to construct a new tourist information centre at the foot of Queensway Avenue. The Simpson Covenant, in place for 71 years, covers lands on what was the site of the Kelowna Sawmill Company. It dictates use of the lands bounded by Okanagan Lake and Ellis Street, Doyle and Queensway Avenues. The land was turned over to the city by Stanley M. Simpson in 1945 for civic purposes only. The fight between the council of the day and Sharron Simpson over the covenant a decade ago went all the way to the B.C. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favour of Simpson, stating the land must never be sold, must be used for municipal purposes, and must not to be used for commercial or industrial purposes.

Simpson now believes that covenant will be violated if Tourism Kelowna goes ahead with plans for the new tourist centre, which encroaches on covenant lands. In a letter to Tourism Kelowna, Simpson says she understands needs of tourists have changed but questions the need to place a building in front of the waterfront the city is trying to promote. At the crux of the issue for Simpson is the retail store within the walls of the tourist centre.Following a meeting with Tourism Kelowna, Simpson stated in her letter:
"You also pointed out that your plan carefully avoids placing your retail outlet within the boundaries of the Simpson Covenant, which the building itself encroaches on. As you may be aware, the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled that there was to be no commercial or industrial activity within the boundaries of the covenant. Whether the site of your retail outlet is on ‘this’ two feet or ‘that’ two feet is irrelevant – it’s under the roof and within the building envelope that does encroach on these restricted-use lands."

She went on to say:
"I wish you well as you search for a new Tourism Kelowna site – however, needs and wants are two different things – we all own and all want to be able to freely access and use this precious piece of land. If you take it over, then it is lost, forever, to the rest of us. The covenant says “for the use and enjoyment of ALL the citizens of Kelowna.” Tourism Kelowna needs to respect that."

When asked if she was prepared to go to court over the matter, Simpson told Castanet no, at least not at the moment. "I'm hoping there will be sufficient groundswell to convince council not to approve the use. We'll see," said Simpson. Covenant lands currently include Stuart Park, City Hall, Memorial Arena, the Kelowna Museum and Kasugai Gardens. The city's construction of a parkade on covenant land between the arena and museum was also the subject of much debate between Simpson and the city. Because of the covenant, the city opted against including retail space at street level as it has with the library and Chapman parkades. The lower level will instead house city offices.

Open Associated File 1944 document from Stanley Simpson to the City of Kelowna.

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