The MLA and president of the local chamber of commerce are among those in Vernon, B.C., expressing disappointment about the private sale of the Chelsea Estate.
News broke this week that the large piece of property on the shore of Okanagan Lake has been sold to a private buyer.
Many in Vernon had hoped the Chelsea Estate land would be purchased by the government for public use.
“We felt this was a huge opportunity for BC Parks to come in, preserve this land for mountain biking, hiking, waterfront access for the community,” said Krystin Kempton, president of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce.
“Definitely disappointed to see it turn into a private sale.”
More than 20,000 people signed an online petition calling on the province to purchase the land and add it to nearby Ellison Provincial Park.
It seems the province did hear that call.
Local MLA Harwinder Sandhu said she was advocating for the public purchase and BC Parks spoke to local government about working together to buy three of the eleven parcels that make up the estate.
“Maybe the seller preferred to sell all 11 parcels together where we were negotiating those three parcels that fit in the BC Parks criteria,” Sandhu said.
Indeed the listing real estate agent Mark Lester said in an email that “the owners had always expressed a preference for the sale of the property as a whole.”
“I can’t speak to what might have been if there was not an acceptable offer on the whole,” Lester wrote.
The mayor of Vernon said the city also had discussions about what it would take to buy the land and determined a time-consuming borrowing referendum would have been needed.
“We had a quick conversation and the number was very large,” Mayor Victor Cumming said.
“The realtor indicated that there was a number of people looking at the property quite promptly and within short order, somebody put in an offer.”
Despite the private sale, the city’s chamber of commerce is not giving up hope that there may still be opportunities for public access to the scenic area.
“We’d like to continue these discussions with any potential purchaser about preserving at least some of that land perhaps subdividing it, ” Kempton said.
“Even if we could have some of it preserved for the community, for those trails, for that waterfront access, I think that would be great. So we hope those discussions will continue with that purchaser and with BC Parks.”
As it stands, conditions on the private purchase have been removed but the sale has not yet closed.