Debate over downtown Kimberley lot won’t go away

170 Wallinger, site of former Esso building, keeps coming up

The issue of what will eventually happen with the very visible downtown lot at 170 Wallinger (former Esso station property) keeps coming up.

Two weeks ago at the Mayor’s Lunch, Don McCormick was asked about the city’s plans, and again at Council last week, a letter was received, which was critical of Council’s handling of the situation.

At the lunch, McCormick said that Council had decided nothing yet about the long term future of the lot.

“Ideas are coming in and at some point, Council will consider them. In the meantime, we have decided to remove the balance of the clutter and grade it flat.”

The letter received by Council came from residents Syd Fletcher and Greg McCormick (no relation to the Mayor), who were writing, they said, to express their deep dissatisfaction with the way the entire thing has been handled.

“The land swap deal only benefitted the owner of the Esso station, who now has a visible building lot and no liability,” the letter says. “Meanwhile the taxpayers are on the hook for thousands of dollars to try to make this eyesore in the middle of downtown safe and more presentable to look at.”

The writers went on to state that they did not find the lot a suitable site for the cenotaph — an idea that has been mentioned more than once when discussing uses for the site. The letter also suggests that the only real potential for the lot is to pay for decontamination and sell it, allowing for something to be built there.

“We need a building to hide the ugly views that opened up when the Esso building was torn down prematurely.”

Coun. Darryl Oakley said it was important that people have a little understanding with what the City was doing, trying to mitigate an environmental hazard and eyesore. There was going to be some cost and risk with that, but the City was looking at grants to assist, he said.

Coun. Albert Hoglund said he agreed that the City let the former owners of the lot off the hook.

“I disagreed at the time and now the City has to clean it up,” he said.

“We’re in it now,” said Coun. Sandra Roberts. “This is just two people’s opinion. They’re entitled to have an opinion, but we are looking at the best options. We are not going to do something if we don’t have the money.”

Coun. Bev Middlebrook said she agreed that Council had to concentrate on the present. “It was a terrible eyesore and it would make a beautiful downtown park,” she said.

“The takeaway from this is that having a basic overall plan in place is important,” McCormick said. “I think if we had spent a little more time up front figuring this out, it may have been different.”

McCormick says while community conversation is welcome, he wishes those conversations could have been had before when previous Council did the land swap and then tore the building down.