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Parking lot dispute between District of Lake Country, Winfield Memorial Hall

Friction has formed in the Central Okanagan over access to a parking lot in Lake Country.

On one side is the District of Lake Country, which wants public access to the parking lot at Winfield Memorial Hall.

On the other side is the hall’s volunteer board, which says the hall is being financially pressured into relinquishing the parking lot — which happens to be located right beside city hall.

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The 100-year-old hall, whose upkeep is done by volunteers, has around 65 stalls, while city hall has 50 parking stalls.

It appears the rift dates back to two years ago, when Lake Country council removed the hall from its tax exemption list in 2019, but added a caveat that can be read on the district’s website.

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“Council included a condition in the bylaw that if the Winfield Memorial Hall opens the parking lot to the public and enters into a lease agreement with the District by Monday, September 23, 2019, a tax exemption for 2020 to 2023 inclusive, will be provided.”

On Friday, a spokesperson for the hall contacted Global News, saying the non-profit society now owes thousands in property taxes.








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According to the hall, the non-profit society owes “a staggering $15,118 property tax bill” this year after mayor James Baker and council voted to reject a tax exemption for a second year in a row.

“It’s heartbreaking and inconceivable as to why council has taken this harsh position on what essentially is a memorial hall owned by every resident of Lake Country,” society director Don Rae said in an email.

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Rae goes on to say “we are a small volunteer group that provides untold hours of upkeep and stewardship to the community hall.”

Hall manager and director John Fiwchuk backed Rae’s statement, telling Global News in an interview that the district asked for control of the parking lot in a multi-page contract.

Fiwchuk said the contract request came out of the blue following a three- or four-year handshake deal in which the district was allowed to use the rear portion of the hall’s parking lot.

In return, Fiwchuk said the hall only asked that the city plow that part of the parking lot during winter.


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“(The handshake deal) was a win-win for both of us,” said Fiwchuk, who was married in Winfield Memorial Hall in 1967 and became a hall member in 1974.

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“Then the district, they decided that there should be a formal agreement. And it was kind of like they wanted to take control of the parking lot and so forth. And our board said no way.”

Fiwchuk said at the same time, the hall was having other parking lot issues, so a gate was put up.

Fiwchuk noted that the hall also had its tax exemption pulled the year before and had to pay $12,745 in 2019.

“We’ve been negotiating back and forth. There’s been two or three different agreements, but it always seems to come back to the same thing: That they want control over the parking lot,” said Fiwchuk.

“And we’ve said ‘No, we couldn’t do that.’ We should have fate over whoever parks on our parking lot.”


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Lake Country councillor and acting mayor Penny Gambell said the district has met with the hall’s board numerous times, and noted that the parking lot is most times empty.

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“We would like to see a positive solution where there’s mutual cooperation on the parking lot in particular,” Gambell told Global News.

“We would like to keep working on a positive relationship with the hall board. It’s a very important asset.”

Gambell also said parents would often temporarily the use hall’s parking lot to drop students off at nearby George Elliot Secondary School.

“Other than that, it hasn’t been extremely full at all, except events, and those are noted by the hall board,” said Gambell.

Fiwchuk says the hall is paying the taxes by dipping into its saving account, which goes towards hall repairs and upkeep. But he said if things continue, it’s likely they’ll have to pass the tax costs onto hall users.


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He says the hall is rented by a wide variety of groups, generally from September to June.

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“With the hall, (the goal) is to give a break to all the local organizations that do use the hall,” said Fiwchuk.

“We try to keep (costs) down so people can afford it. That’s the idea; for people to use the hall.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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