Summerland hurt by stagnant growth

Summerland suffers from an identity crisis and has suffered from nearly 20 years of stagnant growth.

Dear Editor:

How would you imagine Summerland in 20 years?

What kind of community would you identify Summerland as being? What brought you to Summerland and what keeps you here?

Turn back the clock 20 years and ask the same questions. They were as relevant then as they are today.

Why? Because Summerland suffers from an identity crisis and has suffered from nearly 20 years of stagnant growth.

I moved to Summerland with my family in 1979 and at that time and through the 1980s we identified Summerland as a mainly retirement community, but with a vibrant, growing tourism component, strong downtown business environment and a longstanding history in agriculture.

The community was thriving and growing and beginning to attract a growing younger demographic.

The population in 1979 was just under 7,000 and growing at a healthy but sustainable rate.

In the early 1990s, the district’s growth rate was projected to have a population of 20,000 around the year 2010.

Twenty years of 0.5 per cent growth hit and we are at approximately 11,700 today.

The community has only grown by 700 residents since 1996.

We cannot blame this on global or regional changes to economy, as many of our Okanagan neighbours have flourished, during the same period.

Many residents have moved to Summerland to enjoy the small town feel and security, etc.

Many would suggest that they like to keep it this way, however stagnant growth is not acceptable for a community to thrive.

Yes, this is a retirement community and always will predominantly be that way, which is good too, but we also need to attract families, professionals, business, etc. to allow the town to flourish and be sustainable for years to come.

It appears that many candidates running for council and residents alike are making the “land swap” the main issue during the election.

The issue really is the lack of direction and progress regarding Summerland.

As for the land swap, I have seen and heard opponents of this speak out and say this is not where the growth should be, but towards the hills.

Less than 10 years ago, those same voices spoke out against development on the hillsides and said we should in fill and have smart growth near the town core, where the infrastructure exists. So to those people, which is it?

Apparently you just want no growth. Well you seem to have got that for the past 20 years and it is getting us nowhere.

The land in question is adjacent to existing infrastructure for lower cost of development, allowing for well planned, long term growth.

As for the good agriculture land, take a look around. It has been mainly vacant for 30 years.

So with the civic elections only days away, keep this in mind when you vote, do you want Summerland to stay exactly the same or to actually grow and flourish for generations to come?

Some of our candidates do not want any change.

Darren McWatters

Summerland