Vernon, B.C., city council has sent plans for a major redevelopment of the former Kin Race Track site back to the drawing board.
The city wants to enhance the recreation facilities at the site of the former horse track, but council largely wasn’t happy with the preliminary concept designs for the project.
During a lengthy discussion at the city council meeting on Monday, council asked for a redesign and gave directions that would see the land developed as more of an athletics park rather than a general use park space.
Council also rejected what had been a key part of the initial preliminary designs they were reviewing: space for an estimated 330 units of affordable or attainable housing.
Some councillors argued, while they support more housing in general, the Kin Race Track site is not the right space for a housing development.
“It is going to take away valuable land space for the future growth of our sports community,” said councillor Kari Gares.
Other council members supported keeping affordable housing in the plans.
“Affordable and attainable housing is the most significant need facing our community for the last five, six years and it will be going long into the future so to say no would be devastating,” said councillor Kelly Fehr.
Council members who support affordable housing on the site argued the Kin Race Track site is an appropriate location for housing because it is close to shopping and employment hubs.
Supporters also felt having residents living next to the park would prevent some of the safety issues that have developed in other Vernon parks.
Councillors who spoke against affordable housing on the site argued the city could find other spaces for housing projects, but there are few, if any, other locations that could accommodate large recreation facilities.
Those opposed also argued the site was too close to the edge of town and therefore didn’t make sense for densification.
In a split decision, council ultimately voted to exclude affordable housing from the redesigned plan for the Kin Race Track site.
While housing is out, council did vote to include in future plans for the site a skate park, a dog park, a trail, and space for a third ice sheet, connected to the existing Kal Tire Place arena.
The redesign of the site is also expected to include space for the proposed Active Living Centre swimming pool complex.
A referendum on the Active Living Centre is expected to happen in the fall.
The Kin Race Track project was supposed to go back to another round of public consultation right away, but the redesign will likely delay that.
Details about how the redesign of the preliminary concept plans will impact the public consultation and the timeline for the project will be presented at the next city council meeting.
The preliminary concept plans, which council asked be redesigned, included proposals like an amphitheatre, fishing pond, swimming pond, climbing walls and toboggan hill.
The revamp of the Kin Race Track site is expected to include a redesign of the area around Kal Tire Place as well.