Sickle Point tax divides Kaleden, B.C., community

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A multi-million dollar conditional deal to buy a prime piece of lakefront real estate in the South Okanagan and preserve it as parkland seems to be dividing the small community of Kaleden. While supporters are celebrating an accepted offer to purchase Sickle Point, critics say they don't want their taxes to go up to save the land from development. Shelby Thom explains – Jan 13, 2021

Opposition is mounting in the tiny lakefront unincorporated community of Kaleden, B.C., as critics speak out against a proposal that would see taxpayers buy Sickle Point to block future development and preserve the land.

“To pay that kind of money for the wetland to me is ridiculous,” opponent Terry Matatall told Global News on Wednesday.

“They just want to push it through.”

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) and a citizen’s group announced on Monday that a $2.5 million conditional offer has been accepted by the sellers.

Read more: Undeveloped lakefront property in South Okanagan likely to become parkland

The 4.8-acre waterfront property is being sold out of foreclosure, and conservationists want to protect the critical habitat for species-at-risk.

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Volunteers with the Save Sickle Point Committee, a grassroots group, were elated about the prospect of purchasing and preserving the land for future generations.

Click to play video 'Okanagan community rallies to save ‘gem of Kaleden’ from development' Okanagan community rallies to save ‘gem of Kaleden’ from development
Okanagan community rallies to save ‘gem of Kaleden’ from development – Nov 24, 2020

“To finally hear that, yes, the offer has been accepted, hallelujah!,” said member Randy Cranston.

“It was just so relieving to get this offer come through,” added member Doreen Olson.

“It is the last large wetland that is undeveloped on the lake.”

The real estate deal is subject to approval from Kaleden, Twin Lakes, and St. Andrews taxpayers to borrow the money to acquire the property.

Read more: Okanagan community rallies to save ‘gem of Kaleden’ from development

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The RDOS launched an alternative approval process to gain voter assent, meaning opponents to the borrowing must register their opposition by Feb. 8.

“People register an objection to the process and when we hit a threshold of 10 per cent, then that would send it either to a referendum or possibly postpone the project,” said Subrina Monteith, the Kaleden area director with the RDOS.

“The property truly qualifies as trophy real estate and showcases a large premium sandy beach and marsh/wetlands,” says HM Commercial in the real estate listing. Submitted

The tax increase would be around $124 annually for the next 25 years for an average home, if no donations are received.

The Save Sickle Point Committee is vowing to raise the money to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

“The goal is to raise the total amount,” Cranston said. “Which would mean no tax increase.”

But the uncertainty about a possible tax increase is fueling a counter-campaign.

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Read more: Fundraiser aims to save Naramata beach from private sale

A letter is circulating in the community — penned by a group calling itself the Kaleden taxpayers association — claiming “the RDOS is trying to sneak it through.”

“The RDOS was not transparent with the people of Kaleden,” Matatall said.

The regional district denied the allegations and said its followed all the proper channels.

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Naramata community rallies to save local waterfront asset – Oct 20, 2020

“We are stuck in a position of the property in bankruptcy and to be able to conserve it we need to have guaranteed financing so taxation is what is being proposed,” Monteith said.

A virtual public meeting is being held Wednesday night with information available here.

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