In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 15 municipal election, the Summerland Review is asking questions of the candidates for mayor and council.
This week’s question: What do you see as the most important single issue facing our community?
Voting in the election is on Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Summerland Secondary School and Giant’s Head Elementary School.
Advance voting is on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Municipal Hall.
Unity – Summerland is fractured into eight groups – (Business, Arts, Tourism, Agriculture, Developers, Environment, Youth and Seniors) each is equally important.
A united Summerland means businesses will grow; the arts will have a home; tourism will flourish; agriculture will be recognized as precious; developers will be looked at for the value and worthiness that they can be; environment protected; youth will have a choice to stay and work for more than minimum wages; seniors can enjoy life with policing 24 hours a day.
Unity happens with “servant-style” leadership. Reaching out consulting, getting opinions and feedback means all can be heard.
Lead by example: “Community Accountability Sessions” will be reintroduced – part of my managerial style. The community needs answers. In camera meetings for employee issues only! We may agree to disagree but there must be a STOP put to a divisive, intimidating council with their own agenda.
A Summerland first will unite us.
As the mayor, I believe this election will result in a council with a clear opinion on where they stand with regards to this issue. I would propose that no motion related to the Agricultural Land Reserve exchange be considered for a period of six weeks.
During this time a potentially new council will have the opportunity to be made fully informed on the background to this decision and be able to ask questions of staff that may not have been asked by the previous council.
I personally have many questions regarding long term infrastructure costs associated with both areas of land involved in the possible exchange before I would feel sufficiently informed to make a final decision.
It is my goal to create a positive environment for business opportunities in Summerland.
It is very important that Summerland be in a position to re- designate land for development in a timely manner.
The review of the Summerland Growth Management Plan needs to be completed and adopted.
Enough of spin politics! The public is given selective, manipulated information.
We were told that the Okanagan Regional Library is responsible for all the disruption.
The regional library removed a successful business and 11 parking stalls from our Main Street.
After all the Regional Library is paying for it.
The facts. We pay $454,699 a year for library services.
All previous library proposals were multi-story. The long time Summerland plan was to join the new library to a community centre.
Joining buildings allows sharing of facilities (washrooms, classrooms, meeting rooms) making the possibility of a new community centre realistic. Major mistake!
The public was told Summerland needs this ‘land swap’ to build and sustain our economy. Really?
There were three publicly owned downtown lands where we had total control over building size but council chose one-storey buildings.
Having more people living downtown really would build and sustain our economy.
Since the 1996 Official Community Plan was put in effect, our growth rate has been less than 0.5 per cent.
You must have growth to be a thriving community. Communities our size in the valley have grown from 12.5 to 35 per cent.
To have economic development you must have growth.
This provides employment to various trades, contractors, suppliers, and service providers.
Our entry level lots and homes are priced out of range for young families who are unable to purchase here so they move to Penticton and areas outside of Summerland which affects our school registrations.
Major five-year construction projects are taking place south of Summerland and we have no suitable housing to meet their needs, neither for purchase nor rent.
The spin off jobs from these locations will attract labor and professionals to the South Okanagan.
It would be a bonus for Summerland to capitalize on some of this growth.
That is why I feel changes to the OCP are imperative.
I believe the most critical issue is the economic health of the community. I don’t just mean downtown retail, but all facets of business in town.
A concept is do we, as a community know where we want to go and what we want to be. A core aspect is the Official Community Plan.
This document sets out growth patterns and should create a certainty for business and development with only minor adjustments for a minimum of five years.
The recent discussion about the removal of 200 acres of agricultural land is a major change in direction for the community and the OCP.
The public ex-pressed their opinion in the first phase of the recent review process.
Preservation of the aesthetics of the rural urban mix, and preservation of the environmental aspects were deemed critical.
Understanding by all business sectors of how to take advantage of this reality will move our economy forward.
The most important single issue facing our community is the land swap.
It would cost the taxpayers millions of dollars because the value of the taxpayer owned land in the Prairie Valley area will go down significantly.
This value is being transferred to the owners of the land that comes out of the Agricultural Land Reserve, with no compensation to the taxpayers of Summerland!
The current council said that the Municipality would be compensated in the form of increased tax revenue.
This is simply not true.
The increase in taxes from that area would only pay for its current services.
Installing services to the municipally-owned land at the foot of Cartwright will increase its value more than they cost.
Deer Ridge and the municipal lands in West Prairie Valley that were recently taken out of the ALR would then become economic to develop.
This would provide all the development potential Summerland needs for the next 50 years, plus help fund our infrastructure.
Lack of communication is the single, most important issue facing our community.
Just like any relationship between two people or entities, there must be open and honest communication between council and the residents of Summerland. Ongoing dialogue and opportunities for residents’ voices to be heard builds trust and respect. This, in turn, leads enthusiasm and a collaborative spirit.
When we return to acting as leaders and representing those we serve we can address – as a united community – any issues and tough decisions that come our way.
Summerland is at an important crossroad. The decision we make vis a vis the land swap has social, environmental, and economic ramifications and will determine the future direction of our town for generations to come.
The proposed Urban Growth Area recommends removing 198 acres of arable, flat farmland near town and was put forward by the current council as a quick and easy fix to our financial woes.
An overwhelming percentage of the public does not agree with the current proposal. I would like to bring this discussion back to council and properly factor in the public message.
The primary issue, the land swap, has been said by some to be essential to promoting growth, but this is incorrect.
Planting houses on valuable agricultural lands and destroying farmer’s forever jobs makes no sense.
It is estimated that Summerland has a thousand building lots in inventory that can be developed. We need to attract new businesses with jobs and help existing firms expand rather than hope that if houses are built, “they will come”.
The district has three core area lots that could be made available for housing to attract younger families who are at the peak of their spending lives.
We should consider leasing these lots to increase affordability.
Expanding the district’s commercial/industrial tax base is key.
Businesses do not consume more services than they pay for like residential taxpayers do.
A careful harmonization between nature, infrastructure and development, in that order, which is tough.
Being new here (less than a year,) I’m accumulating observations of my surroundings and that small-town feeling. Personally, I hope it stays that way.
Incentives are needed for the many vacant retail outlets to be filled and local businesses supported by all of us, which in turn will benefit everyone.
Literature, art and music is the other side of importance in life, and hopefully, eventually, there’s tranquility.
In my opinion, our town’s greatest issue is “growth without compromise.”
Over the past three national censuses, our town has grown substantially less than our neighbouring communities.
I appreciate our “small town” feel and identity, but in order to remain vibrant we must grow.
This growth does not need to come at the expense of our charming small town character and vital agricultural heritage.
Main Street vacancies and other dormant properties around town currently do not portray “prosperity.”
The best solution I see is for us to target a growth rate of eight to 10 per cent over the next four years.
Measured and controlled growth will in turn spur development, spawn new business, and sustain both our existing business and agriculture community.
Council’s role in this is to carefully review development proposals to ensure they help us achieve our growth targets without adversely impacting our town as a whole.
Building a community that can attract and retain young families and professionals is the key concern we face right now.
Our commercial operators are hardworking and innovative, but they urgently need a greater base of key consumers to sustain and find success throughout the year.
To attract and retain families and professionals we must plan our community to have available a broad range of housing options.
Our families and entrepreneurs should be able to both work and live in this community, instead of outside it.
By building the diversity of Summerland we will become strong and resilient, and we will also find new ideas, new energy, and especially, new neighbours.
The land swap proposal has left the community polarized and a new council will need to heal the divisions.
Whether or not we proceed with the swap will be determined by the electorate through their choice of council.
We must respect the wishes of the majority, whichever way the vote goes, and move on.
We must return the community to a place of civility and respect, shift back from “us vs. them” to “we’re in this together.”
To restore public trust, council needs consensus-builders who embrace the principles of accountability and careful consideration.
We can’t continue with the old top-down style of governance where councillors talk amongst themselves and make Machiavellian decisions.
People today have access to more information and are more conversant with issues than ever, and a new era of open government and decentralized decision-making is upon us.
Summerland council requires fresh thinking to redesign the way it functions and how it engages with citizens.
I believe the single most important issue facing our community is the perceived amount of debt — for an Okanagan bedroom community of our size — that the district has incurred over the last few years, and how servicing this debt will impact our community in regards to future taxation rates and the ability to afford other major infrastructure projects and upgrades that are expected or needed.
With regards to the future accessing of senior government programs, I believe that council will be faced with a very daunting task of evaluating which grants are worth going after and which ones will be have to be forfeited – it’s difficult to give up “free” money but one can go broke buying things on sale.
There is more than one important issue facing our community, for me there are three.
Planning for much needed future growth, of which there has only been an increase in our population of 696 over the past 15 years. Doesn’t make for a sustainable community.
Replacement and upgrading of our aging infrastructure and coming up with an affordable financial plan to do so over the next 25 to 50 years.
Coming up with plans to cash in on non-revenue producing community assets for the purpose of helping fund replacement of our aging infrastructure and help take the pressure off your property taxes.
A good example being the gravel extraction contract that the current council has established, with the funds going into reserves for future capital projects.
Healthy growth in our infrastructure is an important issue facing our community. Other councillor candidates have mentioned this as well in previous articles.
In Canada, the population increase between 2001 and 2011 has been 10.7 per cent. In British Columbia it is 12.6 per cent. Summerland had a five per cent increase.
Driving through Vancouver and the surrounding Tri-Cities this week, I noticed the amounts of work being done on infrastructure. The downtowns are being updated, the surrounding areas are being developed. Looking at the construction though I noticed the cookie-cutter town homes.
I do not envision Summerland as being a uniform city of matching houses. The town is unique and it deserves architecture that stands out in the Okanagan.
Build on the existing beauty here.
We need more tax revenues which we could acquire by expanding our tax base through attracting new businesses; commercial and industrial who would then be contributing taxes.
Those dollars we could use to build our capital reserves.
With the West Jet daily direct flights to Calgary there is an increased opportunity to go to those working in the oil patch and sell the community of Summerland as the most beautiful place to live with an exceptional climate allowing a very active life style.
A safe place with good schools, great teachers, amazing beaches, with good sporting opportunities both summer and winter. A caring, friendly community with the availability of a range of wellness services doctors, naturopaths, chiropractics, reflexology and other therapies. All here within a region of world class wineries, with a great food and hospitality sector.
Families with good incomes who buy products and need services will help to revitalize our downtown core and provide more economic activity for our established businesses.
There are so many issues facing our community, it would be difficult to pick one as the most important.
However, business retention encompasses a lot of issues.
This hits close to home for me as I believe that with the right initiatives for businesses our town could be very successful.
Healthy businesses make for a healthy town.
How do we maintain our lifestyle and allow for change.
Balance will be achieved when we consider all points of view, make decisions based on facts and are transparent in our thinking.
People are more likely to consider other points of view when they have a better understanding of the situation.
When we feel like we are being manipulated and deceived we destroy the community and create apathy.
Short term: I believe the most important issue right now is to bring our community back together (campaigning has shown me how divided we are!)
Just like starting a new chapter, the next council has the opportunity to work collaboratively, provide strong leadership, and set a positive tone — one that upholds the principles of good governance.
Long term: Upgrading or building new infrastructure. I believe we should review our services, make a list of priorities, start planning a schedule, and — most importantly — determine how we’re going to pay for these projects.
Martin Van Alphen
The current Urban Growth Plan with the divisiveness that it has created in Summerland.
This single issue has torn our community apart. It has turned friends against friends and neighbours against neighbours.
We need to take a step back and let the Agriculture Land Commission review the application.
It may be accepted or rejected in part or in whole or phased in.
At this time, I am not prepared to rescind the application as no one knows what the ALC decision will be.