Resident dissatisfaction growing in West Kelowna

Tenth annual Citizens’ Survey shows residents unhappy with pace of growth in the city.

There’s a growing dissatisfaction amongst West Kelonwa residents with the rate of growth in the city.

According to figures from West Kelowna’s 10th annual citizen’s survey presented to council earlier this week, 45 per cent of respondents feel West Kelowna is growing too fast, up from just 27 per cent in 2016. Meanwhile 49 per cent feel the city is growing at the right pace, down from 66 per cent last year.

Despite that, 82 per cent of respondents indicated they feel their quality of life in the city is good or very good. But even that number dipped slightly from last year, when 85 per cent responded the same way.

And it was not just quality of life and growth that saw drops this year. The performance of city council also fell in the eyes of residents. The 2017 survey shows 45 per cent feel the current council is doing a good or very good job, down from 50 per cent last year. Forty-two per cent rate council as average.

The city sent out 1,000 surveys to randomly selected addresses in 10 neighbourhoods earlier this year and received completed surveys back. The return is enough to be statistically accurate, say city officials.

This year’s survey shows road maintenance, roads, illegal dumping cleanup, sidewalks, growth and development planning, recreation programs for teens and dedicated bicycle lanes are all city services not meeting expectations.

Services such as arenas, the public library, community centres, sports fields and skateboard and bicycle parks were all seen as services that are exceeding expectations.

“We know we have to plow ahead on roads and sidewalks,” said Mayor Doug Findlater when asked about the survey’s results. “We didn’t need a survey to confirm that.”

Still, he said he feels the annual survey is worthwhile as it is a tool to help guide council.

On the question of growth, the mayor noted much of what the city has been able to achieve in its short 10-year history has been due to growth. And, he added, growth has also allowed West Kelowna to keep its annual increase in residential taxes to around three per cent each year since 2008.

But the 2017 survey shows 46 per cent of respondents support just a one per cent annual tax increase, while 42 per cent don’t want to see any annual tax increase at all.

Those findings left one city councillor wondering how those people expect the city to pay for needed improvements.

Bryden Winsby said he takes the annual survey “with a grain of salt” because of the low number of responses in relation to the population (West Kelowna has around 34,000 residents) and his belief the survey tends to skewer toward older residents because they are the ones who respond in the highest number each year.

This year, sixty-four per cent of respondents indicated they were 55 years of age or older and 48 per cent said they were retired. Winsby said he would like to see more younger people respond, adding one way could be a telephone survey instead of one conducted by mail.

He said with three per cent tax increases, there is not a lot of money for municipal spending on new projects.

Both Findlater and Winbsy said major issues last year may have had an impact on the survey’s results, particularly council’s rating. Winsby said last year’s prolonged water quality advisory for the Lakeview water system may have impacted the result, despite the cause being beyond the control of city. And Findlater said there could have been residual hard feelings about the city’s failed attempt to win approval to borrow money to build a new city hall.

The survey’s 317 responses are considered enough for a statistically valid result, said city staff, adding they were happy with the number of returns despite it being smaller than the numbers in both 2016 and 2015, when 360 surveys were returned each year.

Full results of the 2017 West Kelowna Citizens’ Survey are available at www.westkelownacity.ca/citizenssurvey