City council endorses Balment for indoor facility
City of Cranbrook council last night (Feb. 25) passed a motion to support Balment Park as the location for Kootenay East Youth Soccer Association’s (KEYSA) indoor sports facility.
Where exactly the proposed facility will be situated within Balment remains up for discussion.
City staff presented council with the ‘Balment Park User Impact Review,’ as requested by Coun. Norma Blissett during the Feb. 4 council meeting.
Chris New presented five possible configuration options on the property, with “option six” presented by Coun. Ron Popoff, noting the location should minimize the impact on the Bike Skills Society and keep green space available for future events like Sam Steele Days.
Prior to voting, Mayor Lee Pratt said he had a number of concerns with Balment Park as the location of the facility and explained why he was against the site.
“We still don’t have a detailed business plan based on anything but assumptions and unconfirmed projections,” he said, noting actual possible usage of the facility remains up in the air.
He also said he doesn’t believe travel to the facility is that big of a deal for city and area residents, as an argument against the Moir Park location.
“Distance travel is not a big deal in Cranbrook,” Pratt said.
The mayor said he has yet to hear any strong endorsement from School District No. 5. “If the school board is serious about using the facility I’d like to see a three to five year service agreement and contract in place,” he said.
While giving kudos to KEYSA for the work done up to now, Pratt said he believes a lot more work needs to be done.
The city needs downtown space, Pratt continued, pointing at last weekend’s CBK Winter Blitzville event as proof that space remains necessary downtown.
“In my opinion it would be a huge mistake to give up any green space close to the centre of the city. This green space can be used for many types of event by various user groups,” he added, noting the Sam Steele Society has stated “they would rather no green space be given up” at Balment Park.
“I firmly believe this has now become a political issue, which may cloud the decision based on popularity,” Pratt read from a prepared statement. “I believe I was elected to serve the majority of the citizens of Cranbrook and make the right decisions regarding the present day in terms of sustainability and help the community. There are still too many unknowns about the overall operation of the facility and the location is but a small part of it. I think we still have some due diligence to do before we make any decision on the location.”
After council unanimously accepted the staff report into record, Coun. Blissett made a motion for council to accept Balment Park as the site for the indoor facility.
Blissett said she understands some of the mayor’s concerns – “that everything isn’t nailed down” but the staff report is detailed and the school district supports Balment as a location because students from all city schools can walk to it, thought admitting “they aren’t making a hard and fast commitment.
“I do think this location is best for our downtown because it brings people downtown. I really see that synergy of use,” Blissett argued, adding she believes the majority of residents support the Balment location.
Coun. Popoff pointed out to council that the city’s parks and recreation master plan includes notation of the need for a facility that KEYSA proposes.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that a central location like Balment is where it should go,” he said.
Coun. Wayne Price said he supports Popoff’s option six because it provides the “least amount of interference with the green space.”
Pratt concluded he needed to “make it clear I am not against the project. I am not in favour of putting it at Balment right now.”
Councillors Blissett, Popoff, Price and Wes Graham voted in favour of the Balment motion while Mayor Pratt and Coun. Mike Peabody voted against it.
Configuration options will be presented to council for a decision at the next meeting on Monday, March 11.
– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW