As an entrepreneur and small business consultant in the private sector, I have worked with many retailers, restaurateurs and wineries throughout the Okanagan, gaining valuable insight into the region’s specific challenges and funding needs. Municipalities can leverage many tools to renew innovation and economic development. Including; financial incentives, improvements to commercial areas, offering research and development tax incentives, promoting our local tourism industry, facilitating stakeholder relationships and connecting businesses in need to skilled workers.
I believe that there is a shortage of housing which can accommodate the various needs and income thresholds of our diverse community. Notably, low to moderate income families in our community are most desperate for affordable housing options, yet have few options in today’s housing climate. West Kelowna council should use tactical consideration when evaluating development applications for both affordable housing and social housing options within the boundaries of Westbank & Boucherie Urban Centres; including mixed-use, purpose built rentals, cooperatives, subsidised housing and secondary housing, in order to accommodate our growing community and diversify our local housing pool.
West Kelowna requires a diverse supply of housing which enables households to better determine the type of housing they want and can afford. If we approve multi mixed use developments within the two identified Urban Centres (Westbank & Boucherie), and infill of the five established smaller neighbourhood centres (Goats Peak, Gellatly, SmithCreek/Shannon Lake, Rose Valley, Lakeview Heights) which concentrate on secondary suites, carriage homes and creating small commercial villages, similar to Lakeside Village on Anders Road. Communities would have closer access to local services and amenities and we can then put focused attention on connecting those communities with multiple transit options.
Transportation & Infrastructure
A possible second crossing is years, possibly decades, aways from becoming a reality. In the interim, we should focus on reducing the need for West Kelowna residents to cross the Bennett bridge by creating small neighborhood centers, such as Lakeview Village on Andres Rd. which would provide local access to services, shops and social opportunities. We can address known areas of congestion by building interchanges at both the Boucherie-Horizon and Westlake-Hudson intersections. While continuing to advocate for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to address the West Kelowna couplet, converting Main street back to a pedestrian friendly street with mixed use development, with Dobbin Rd continuing to serve as Hwy 97 access through the community.
Property and street crime is a symptom of a much larger problem. Residents struggling with substance use, complex addiction issues, mental health, homlessness and lack of affordable housing are all contributing factors towards the growing number of crimes in our community. Currently, West Kelowna’s police force consists of 30 RCMP officers & 8 support staff, which is only a fraction of the 70 officers we would need to be on par with the Canadian average per 100,000 residents. Council should continue to advocate, on the provincial level, for additional RCMP officers. Invest in community safety initiatives, prolific offender management, and engage with public safety, health and social service sectors in an effort to work towards overall crime reduction.
West Kelowna Fire Department is often the first responder to arrive at the scene. Be it a house fire, wildfire or overdose. As the city grows, developments increase in size and height, the city must continue to support our firefighters and ensure they have the resources they need to keep us all safe. Some of the ongoing fiscal needs include the following; resources for the ongoing FireSmart program, protective equipment, education & training. Continued advocacy for egress, on a provincial level, for every neighbourhood should also remain a city priority
West Kelowna’s Primary Urgent Care Centre opened its doors in October 2020 and the facility is a welcome addition to the area. With few walk-in clinic options, a shortage of available family doctors, and the Kelowna General Hospital 15 kms away, local healthcare options are scarce. West Kelowna residents require better access to healthcare and the municipality should continue to advocate the provincial government and Interior Health Authority for an increase in service at the urgent care centre; including additional staffing and increased hours of operation.
West Kelowna is a breathtaking community, from shore to peak, and as a nature advocate, I believe that we have an obligation to protect and preserve our natural resources, while always pursuing balance when assessing the residential and commercial needs of a growing community; including clean water and climate action plans. The completion of West Kelowna’s Climate Action Initiative is key and should include an advisory committee of industry experts, with the intention of creating a phased approach to adopting low carbon standards for future building developments. Combining energy efficiency and electrification is critical to achieving decarbonization. Retrofit of existing buildings and setting standards for new developments moving forward, benefits residents by reduced utility costs.