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Pandosy business area deep-sixed for a year

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 | 5:24 am

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By the time Pandosy Street looks like the artist's rendering of the SOPA Square building, a BIA will be in place.

By Kathy Michaels

Stacey Fenwick says she’s disappointed with Kelowna city council for arbitrarily changing its own rules when they deep-sixed plans to institute a Business Improvement Area for South Pandosy.

“We did technically get what they said they needed to let it pass,” she said of council’s decision to put the plan on hold until next January. Instead, councillors decided to give  $5,000 to help Fenwick and other supporters get more established.

Fenwick said her group met all the city’s requirements for an improvement area. They spoke with business owners and merchants, did all the appropriate paper work and followed the process used by Rutland and Downtown Kelowna get their improvement areas.

But it wasn’t that easy. They needed at least 50 per cent approval from businesses and landowners in the area, or 53 of 106 businesses. The city got a counter petition from 45 of them. Technically the numbers are still with Fenwick but that wasn’t the real issue to city councillors. They pointed to the volume of opposition as a sign of a divide within the community, noting a little more time would help supporters of the neighbourhood association build support.

“There’s a strong desire for the organizers to have a stronger showing than 50 per cent,” said Coun. Luke Stack at Monday’s meeting. “Truthfully I believe in this BIA, I think it’s the right vehicle for the Pandosy area and I would like to see it go ahead. But I would be disappointed to see it barely pass.”

Agreeing that such a strong showing of dissenters doesn’t bode well, Coun. Robert Hobson said the program needs to be defined better so merchants and business owners understand the advantages.

Whether that will occur remains to be seen, said Fenwick.

“Petitions were gathered on misinformation,” she said, adding she believes business owners were told the money the city collected for the improvement area would be diverted to fund projects in other neighbourhoods.

“It just makes our job harder when most of the people didn’t even bother to check facts.”

She added that it’s common knowledge that the Callahan group are against the project and they sit on 23 per cent of the land value in the area —though council members noted a number of petitions outside those holdings— and if they continue to lobby against the improvement area, it could continually stymie forward momentum. The Callahans did not return calls, requesting an interview.

“When I’m actually going door to door meeting people, even if they weren’t sure at first, they were onside later,” she said, adding she heard regular concerns about the bureaucracy and cost.

She said an improvement area is the best way to ensure the area grows up well. It’s a method that could help deal with the area’s constant parking problems. It’s also the only way to access provincial dollars that could help the neighbourhood implement a number of projects, like new transit systems.

“Without the BIA it will be impossible to manage the growth that’s inevitable,” she said. “Kelowna has grown up with an anti growth philosophy and that’s made it so we can’t plan well.”

With plans set aside for another year, Fenwick said that the BIA advisory group will have a meeting next week to discuss how to move forward.

kathy@kelowna.com

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