West Kelowna still evolving 5 years after incorporation vote

Five years after the referendum, Mayor Doug Findlater says Westside residents are still happy with decision to incorporate.

Nearly five years have passed since West Kelowna voted whether or not it would become its own municipality.

Prior to 2007, the Westside was governed by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan. In the June 16, 2007 referendum, 84 per cent of taxpayers voted for West Kelowna to change to municipal status.

In a much closer vote, the June 16, 2007 referendum also determined that 51 per cent wanted to create a Westside municipality, rather than joining the City of Kelowna.

Later that year, area residents participated in the first election campaign for a mayor and six councillors—the district was officially incorporated on Dec. 6, 2007.

Mayor Doug Findlater said that he believes the integral vote has brought positive change over the past five years.

“I find people are pretty happy overall that we incorporated,” said Findlater.

“I think there was an indication of that in November (2011) when incumbents were strongly reelected; whereas, across the valley, incumbents were going down left and right.”

Findlater and four of six current councillors were part of the inaugural government formed in 2007.

“Five of us have been through three elections in five years, which is phenomenal. We’re seasoned veterans after only five years,” said Findlater.

Highlights over the past five years include the creation of an Official Community Plan, infrastructure improvements and planning for further improvements in the Westbank Town Centre, said Findlater.

But certain areas haven’t progressed as far as the mayor would like.

“I had expected that we’d certainly move a bit further along in embracing the arts and culture in our community, but we’re just not ready to do that. As an organization, we can only do so many things.

“We have also found a lot of things in terms of our relationships with the province, the regional district and Westbank First Nation that we continue to try and straighten out. . .those are things that have taken more time than we anticipated.”

Looking ahead, hard infrastructure and economic development are the top priorities for the district in the next two or three years.

Another big task will be assuming the road maintenance responsibility from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure at the end of 2012.

“We’re not a mature organization yet, we’re still in an evolutionary stage. But we’ve got a very strong team of people and a very strong organization.”