At its recent February meeting the chamber board discussed an issue that is of importance to all of us, the District of Summerland’s new Urban Growth Strategy Report.
The district’s director of development, Ian McIntosh, walked the board through a presentation detailing the history of our community’s growth, the variety of efforts that were made to reach and communicate with all members of our community and the resulting recommendations found in the report.
Following discussion among the elected board members, we want to publicly share our position on this issue.
First, we applaud the extensive public engagement process that the district has gone through in order to prepare this report.
More than a year and a half of staff time has gone into this process and multiple efforts were made to connect with all of us, to hear our voices, and to listen to input from even the youngest members of our community – the ones that will have to live with our decisions.
It’s important to remember that while the consulting firm that supported these efforts was from out of town, the bulk of the work was done by people at the district that are long term residents of Summerland and just as passionate about our collective future as any of the rest of us.
The board also welcomes and encourages the healthy debate that has resulted from the recent report. It’s good to see that when something is important enough, we can stand up for what is meaningful to us.
However, given that Summerland is home to two national anti-bullying organizations, it’s also very important that as adults we model only the most positive of discussion methods, respectfully acknowledge that people with differing views are no less committed to the community and remember that our comments in public and on social media live long after we’ve spoken them.
As the organization that’s responsible for marketing Summerland, we particularly see how negative news stories affect our town.
Regarding the report itself, the chamber supports the principals of the report that apply to businesses and our business members.
These include: efficient and cost-effective planning for Summerland, a farmer’s right to farm, enhancing our downtown area, recognition of the need for community growth, reduced greenhouse gases, efficient use of industrial areas, reduced costs for infrastructure, the densification of the downtown core and walking convenience to downtown stores and amenities for residents.
As many recent letters to the editor have pointed out, we need growth in Summerland and places for young families to live.
The proposed trading of a central parcel of ALR land for one that is further from the core is a reasonable way to gain the needed land to build in the coming decades.
The land proposed for the exchange is highly useful to at least two agricultural businesses, both of whom create jobs in our community.
Housing, jobs, an improved tax base, investment and development are all things Summerland needs in order to thrive.
It’s almost impossible to have all of these things at once; they will come to us bit by bit as we make efforts in each area.
We can achieve these things and still retain our attractive rural character.
Continued careful long-term planning efforts are required to ensure this.
We always appreciate your feedback. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Petkau at email@example.com.
Arlene Fenrich is president of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism. All of the members of the board of directors serve as volunteers.