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Lake Country council candidates talk housing, climate change, development

The candidates forum was hosted by Lake Country Chamber
Lake Country Mayor Elect Blaire Ireland addresses the crowd before council candidates answer questions at a forum at the Creekside Theatre on Sept. 28, 2022 (Brittany Webster - the Calendar)

A second forum was held Sept. 28 at Creekside Theatre for Lake Country council candidates.

Hosted by Lake Country Chamber, candidates for Winfield, Okanagan Centre, and Councillor at Large took to the stage to answer questions emailed to the chamber.

The evening opened with remarks from the Mayor-elect Blaire Ireland.

“You got a problem, give me a call,” Ireland said after introducing himself.

He then took the time to address the referendum question that will be voted on during election day.

“I live in Okanagan Centre, everyday through the summer that place is packed. There’s no parking, there’s not likely to be more parking. It’s a really difficult problem, and we’re going to grow a lot.”

Ireland said if Lake Country wants more waterfront on Okanagan Lake, this is the way to do it.

“One of our problems is, we own no land on Okanagan Lake other than Coral Beach and a couple of roads in. The Okanagan Centre green space is a green space that is owned by the province. We have a licence of occupation for it but it’s owned by the province, and some of the rules in that are there are that there are limited ways to alter that waterfront.”

The following question will be posed to Lake Country residents when they vote on Oct. 15:

“Are you in favour of the District of Lake Country authorizing Loan Authorization (Waterfront Property) Bylaw 1187, 2022 to authorize the borrowing of up to $8,000,000 to purchase waterfront property for community use?”

Council candidates were also asked about the referendum.

Incumbent Jeremy Kozub, running for Winfield, answered first, supporting the matter.

“My grandfather was one of the people that was instrumental in securing the Beasley Park property. If we were to look back now and not have that and that were to be a development… If we don’t afford this opportunity to be able to buy these waterfront properties, one day someone will look back and one day say ‘why did they not do that when they had the opportunity?’”

Incumbent Bill Scarrow, running for Councillor at Large, also addressed the referendum, stating the loan doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in taxes.

“I don’t envision a tax increase. We have a pot of money that we collect when development occurs…part of that is put into a reserve that we can only spend on parks. The second part of it is the referendum money that we would borrow from the province and pay back on a regular basis. Those payments would perhaps reflect in a tax increase, but not necessarily.”

Other hot topics of the night included:

Red tape for development permits

Michael Lewis (Councillor at Large): “This is one of the main reasons that I’m running. I’ve been doing this for five years and it’s been nothing but red tape. It’s been a nightmare trying to work with the district. It’s not their fault. The people there are great, the staff are amazing, they’re just understaffed and they have been for the last four years. It’s obvious they’re drowning. I think they have the same number of engineers this year than they had in 2012. They cannot handle the workload.”

Tricia Brett (Okanagan Centre): “One of the things we need to do, is once our process is better and faster - and we’re getting there - we need to go out to the building community and go out to the development community and also let them know that things have changed and we’ve improved our processes. We have had a reputation like this for way too long and we need to let people know that there are opportunities here.”

Affordable housing

Riley Hastings (Okanagan Centre): “We need more housing, because our community here is highly sought after. People want to move here, people want to live here, we can’t just close the door and say no more people in. We need to keep this community flourishing. I think we just need to keep adding houses. We don’t need to always go high end, we can have a variation of different things, but we definitely need to keep going with housing and that will help bring costs down when we have more on the market.”

Heather Irvine (Winfield): “Affordable housing is a term that has many meanings. Are homes affordable for working families, low-income, or single-income families? Our current council talks about housing affordability, but has had limited success in securing the funding. We need a new path forward as what we’re doing now is not working.”

Developing the main street

Jeremy Kozub (Winfield): “I was actually just crunching some numbers the other day and there’s only one large lot that is there that is undeveloped and that is owned by one individual that takes up about 22 per cent of the whole area. There’s two other lots that are empty as well. Two that we’ve already approved for a six storey building to go in and the other one is Hill Road where I hope will become affordable housing one day. What we need to do is get that developer that owns that property at the table, which the district has already tried to do and has not been able to do it, and hopefully with a downturn of the economy - which isn’t a good thing - but hopefully it’s a good thing for us as they’ll want to develop that spot.”

Michael Lewis (Councillor at Large): “No developer wants to work in Lake Country. We just had a meeting this morning at the district office. There was a commercial developer there, a builder. They said it’s their policy not to do business in Lake Country, it’s too difficult. Who’s going to want to buy a how-many-million dollar property to wait 10 years for the approval? We have to get our house in order so that people can come in and be treated respectfully, quickly, get permits, and get things built. Otherwise, no one’s going to come.”

Climate change

Bill Scarrow (Councillor at Large): “Transit and smart growth is very important. As far as wastewater goes, which goes into our soil and pollutes our soil, we are dealing with that in a reasonable fashion, but we have a lot of catching up to do. When we incorporated, nobody had sewer service, now we do have sewer service, but it hasn’t grown large enough.”

Riley Hastings (Okanagan Centre): “I’ve witnessed that extreme weather. I lost my roof when I was building my house in Okanagan Centre. I learned right quick that we get some pretty intense storms out there. I guess we just have to move with the times. Everybody is progressing in the same direction these days, so we just have to follow suit, try to get as green as we possibly can going through all of our daily activities and routines.”


Heather Irvine (Winfield): “I don’t know how innovative, but it seems innovative for the current council, would be self-sorting garbage receptacles. We don’t have enough of them, the ones that we have are in the wrong spot. We’ve got none around schools, and self-sorting. I guess it could be part of the climate change. Currently now, all the cans and bottles that are along the beach that residents and tourists are drinking go in the garbage can. We don’t recycle and to me that’s a tragedy. Plus we don’t have the proper garbage receptacles. Birds swoop in, take the remnants from the food truck and scatter it. So the tide comes in and debris goes out.”

Tricia Brett (Okanagan Centre): “My daughter is 13. She’s bored. She said she wants ideas to do, but not anything that has to be organized. Some of the things that I’ve thought of are maybe opening up more of our programs. For example, [Creekside Theatre] we could do a movie night here. Food trucks in the parking lot, snacks, drinks, maybe a coffee machine for adults. What we also need is something to bring the family unit together and to bring community together. Opening up more programs is something that Lake Country does very well and I’m thinking games night at Beasley, maybe even if we could attract a bowling alley, that would be wonderful.”

Bib Patel, running for Councillor at Large, said he was feeling under the weather and did not attend the forum.

Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

A video journalist with Black Press Media. I recently made the exciting move from my radio anchor position at AM 1150 to this new venture.
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