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Park sale was a mistake, Castlegar mayoral contender says

A former mayor of Castlegar hoping to win his old job back next month says he would have voted against the rezoning and sale of a piece of parkland to a developer.

Lawrence Chernoff, who filed his nomination papers a few hours before Friday’s deadline, is critical of council’s 6-1 decision to approve the rezoning of Brandson Park, clearing the way for a 54-unit residential/commercial building. A smaller park will remain on the site.

“I took issue with the development,” says Chernoff, who lives nearby. “To me, in this day and age, you can’t get rid of parks. Parks play such a big role in the community.

“They should have found another location for it. I think other properties were better suited. To put a five-storey building up there just didn’t make sense.”

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The B.C. ombudsperson’s office is looking into a couple of complaints from citizens about the process and the sale.

Chernoff served as mayor from 2005-18, following many years as a councillor. In 2018, he  finished third in his re-election bid behind councillors Bruno Tassone and Deb McIntosh.

Following Tassone’s resignation as mayor, Chernoff ran in last year’s by-election but again finished third behind former councillor Kirk Duff and councillor Florio Vassilakakis.

Duff is not seeking re-election for health reasons. Chernoff will run against incumbent councillor Maria McFaddin.

“I still have passion for the community,” said Chernoff, who recently turned 75. “As you get older, you look at what’s happening in life. [After] listening to the citizens who knocked on my door, I said ‘yeah, I’m interested.'”

Chernoff says while the park sale will probably be an election issue, there aren’t any particular topics he is championing in his campaign. Rather, he is selling the community on his passion for the job and willingness to listen.

While he has been sidelined from local politics, Chernoff said he didn’t envy those who served over the last four years.

“I think it was a difficult time to be on council. You do the best you can, but it was not easy, especially with COVID.”

As for what he has been up to since 2018?

“I did a lot of work around my house that normally would not have been done,” he laughed. “It was great therapy for me.”

Voting day is Oct. 15.

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