West Kelowna City Hall—Image credit: City of West Kelowna

West Kelowna candidates talk foreshore

Each week learn about your candidates views on issues facing West Kelowna

Every week, during the run-up to the Oct. 20 election, the Capital News will ask municipal candidates a question about a local issue.

Last week’s question to the council candidates was: What impact will the speculation tax have on your city and what would you do to mitigate or capitalize on the effects? One name was lost in the email shuffle. Here is their answer.

This week’s question is: There has been a lot of concern in recent years about whether the lake front is being kept accessible to the general public. What do you think the municipality should do to ensure the public has ample access to Okanagan lake?

Bryden Winsby, West Kelowna council candidate

On the speculation tax

Since it was first announced last February, the provincial government’s proposed real estate speculation tax has been one of the most frustrating issues faced by West Kelowna city council. Despite considerable research into the potential harm the tax could do and representations to the Premier and Minister of Finance trying to convince them the tax is ill-conceived, it seems their determination to impose it is unshaken.

We have been stonewalled in efforts to obtain, through a freedom of information application, detailed rationale for including West Kelowna in the group of municipalities that are to be hit with the tax.

We are concerned the tax is being imposed without an economic impact study having been done for the affected communities (which do not include Lake Country, Peachland or Penticton, where real estate is also pricey.).

Most of the affected property owners are British Columbians and other Canadians, not foreign investors. The tax will force them to ante up thousands of additional tax dollars annually, sell their properties or become reluctant landlords. There is no real evidence this tax will ease the housing affordability/availability crunch in B.C.

In the meantime, we have already seen several projects shelved. A continued slowdown is likely, costing jobs and revenues to the city that would have resulted from additionally property tax and development cost charges.

How this matter will play out is uncertain, as the tax must pass a vote in the legislature, which resumes sitting on Oct. 1, with the NDP having a tenuous hold on power.

On the lakefront

During my nearly 10 years on council we have had no requests, formal or informal, to take action against property owners whose fences, docks and wharves impede public access to the waterfront. If we were to take action, we’d have to convince the province to get involved. No easy task.

My understanding is that a waterfront property line generally extends to the normal high water mark of the lake. The land below this natural boundary is defined as the foreshore and in most cases belongs to the provincial government (the Crown). Because the foreshore is owned by the Crown, it is available for casual public use. Waterfront owners must permit access across this publicly owned land. Placing obstructions that keep the public away is contrary to this and constitutes a trespass on the owner’s part.

That said, my greater concern is the lack of city-owned waterfront. As with Kelowna, much of our waterfront is privately owned. We have no options for acquiring more other than to buy it or, where possible, obtain Crown leases. The city has established reserve funds for parkland acquisition — but the amount of money isn’t huge and parkland takes numerous forms. The waterfront variety is the most expensive. Our only route might be to test the public’s appetite, through referendum, for borrowing the money needed to expand our waterfront land inventory, not just for beaches but to alleviate our inadequate boat launching facilities.

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Jayson Zilkie, council candidate

There has been a lot of concern in recent years about whether the lake front is being kept accessible to the general public.

Some people are concerned that rich home owners are able to build structures that impede beach use. Others complain there isn’t enough park space.

Is there enough being done to make sure there is enough public space?

I believe there can always be more done to improve public spaces, especially parks.

If not, what do you think the municipality should do to ensure the public has ample access to Okanagan lake?

Municipalities can commit to making public places like beaches and parks a priority. That doesn’t mean that homeowners living on the lake should be penalized for living there or be unable to build structures. If the municipality does a great job increasing and maximizing park and beach access than I believe some of the issues will be a none issue.

Joe Gluska, council candidate

West Kelowna owns the lake bottom from high water to 300 metres out. The province and Federal Government have jurisdiction over the water, as does First Nations where the water meets their shore line. South of the bridge other than first nations to my knowledge there are no more than 4 deeds to shoreline.

West Kelowna has a number of Lake access points but a review needs to be done to verify all of the lake access West Kelowna owns. Upgrades to all of these lake access points need to be conducted and a timeline established for each, so the residents of West Kelowna can enjoy as much of the lake as possible. That said I believe West Kelowna needs to be very ambitious in preserving the linear access to the water for non motorized enjoyment be it paddle boards, canoes, kayaks or other. If we continue to build massive boat marinas people will lose the linear access to Okanagan lake, by being forced into the motorized pathways on the lake. Establishment of a paddle park from Blackmun bay to Gellatly bay would be a positive step for all.

All residents could enjoy the linear access being able to stop at all of the city owned beach access spots as well as Kalamoir Beack Park, Green Bay and Gellatly Park.

This would be a better use of dollars than spending millions of tax dollars on one single lot.

Doug Findlater, council candidate

West Kelowna has a Parks Master Plan that is the guiding document for public spaces.

To that end West Kelowna has developed a number of road ends or beach accesses to provide public access to the Okanagan Lake in the past ten years. West Kelowna has provided additional public waterfront access through creation of the beautiful Gellatly Bay corridor, and the expansion of Pritchard Park, both on Okanagan Lake.. West Kelowna is a financial participant with RDCO in the purchase of Goats Peak Regional Park and additional parcels to supplement Glen Canyon Regional Park as public space. The city has supported trail development in the Rose Valley area.

Rosalind Neis, council candidate

Over the past 10 years West Kelowna has purchased two water front lots in order to expand local parks on Okanagan Lake. From here on out I do not believe we should spend any more tax payers dollars on park land as we barely have enough funds for a drinking water treatment plant and to spend more money on wants for this community when we have so many needs would be mis-management of tax payer funding in my opinion.

We should all be aware that the public has access of the foreshore up to high water line – there are areas were is it no possible to walk. Any new developments need to provide reasonable public access to the waterfront and ensure it is enjoyable for all.

Gord Milsom, mayoral candidate

Once the new Goats Peak Regional Park (52 hectares) is open, West Kelowna residents and visitors will be able to enjoy another amazing waterfront destination in addition to the Gellatly Nut Farm, the Gellatly Bay Waterfront Walkway, the CNR Wharf, and Kalamoir Regional Park.

Although there are close to three dozen small municipal waterfront parks and lake accesses, the majority of West Kelowna’s waterfront consist of long established private residential properties. Although access to foreshore is often limited by steep slopes, environmentally sensitive areas, and high water levels, any illegal barriers along the foreshore areas should be removed. Public access to the foreshore must be considered for new dock and/or development applications.

I believe that the City of West Kelowna should take an active role in facilitating the completion of the Trail 2000 waterfront trail connections from Peachland to the Bennett Bridge.

Carol Zanon, council candidate

Let’s go back a bit in history. About 30 years ago, before we were a city, the Gellatly Bay Aquatic Society (now the Gellatly Bay Trails and Parks Society) began the development of our lakefront.

They built Rotary Park, Marina Park, Willows Beach Park, and Rotary Beach. It was a great start. Since West Kelowna incorporation, grants were secured and the popular Gellatly Walkway was added, Rotary Trails were enhanced and Powers Point Park upgraded. After much community consultation, the Waterfront Master Plan was adopted in 2011. This document guides planned improvements as we move forward.

The plans commit to further development of waterfront parks and community access to the foreshore below the high watermark. There are about 30 lake accesses in the Waterfront Plan area. Originally the city was to develop two beach accesses every five years. Unfortunately the timetable has been thrown off by historic flood and fire emergencies, but It is a 50 year vision and more waterfront enhancements will come.

In the meantime, as the city grows, a demand exists for the development of accessible neighbourhood parks and public spaces. I think there is enough being done as this focus takes a lot of planning and money. Recently the city has acquired land on Westlake Road. Part of this property will be used for athletic purposes, and a section of land was donated by the descendents of brothers Mar Fee and Mark Jok to accommodate a nature trail and park.

Jason Friesen, council candidate

I believe that West Kelowna has done a good job in keeping access to the lakeshore open to the public. Unlike Kelowna, a fair amount of our lakeshore is not naturally accessible because of the geography of the land and we have not seen much in the way of new development on the lakeshore taking up any further land.

I will give current and past council credit in the development and maintenance of the waterfront amenities. Purchasing additional land at Pritchard Park to increase the size of the park, rebuilding the wharf and the work done on Gellatly have all been well received and well done for the residents of West Kelowna. As a future member of council I would continue to push to purchase more waterfront land if/when it becomes available as I believe that this is something that should be for all the residents.

I also believe that we have done a good job in keeping park space a priority. Council has done a good job in ensuring that there is park space allocated in most of the new developments. We are also blessed with many park areas that are great for hiking and biking and we need to continue to support the district and be good stewards of those areas as well.

Rusty Ensign, council candidate

New development brings public space. Land dedication at zoning contributes to parkland, future playing fields and public waterfront access. Most importantly the Development Cost Charges (DCC’s)paid at subdivision or multifamily building permit give us the ability to acquire much needed land for parks, playing fields and beaches. The parks DCC’s brought in by this council in 2016 was increased from I believe about $1500 per unit to $4,700 per unit. This increase was done in order acquire the DCC reserves to fund our shortage of public lands. Just in September these funds paid for 5.34 hectares on Westlake Road for future athletic field and trail development at a cost of $4,250,000 at no cost to the tax payer. This is why we need to become a competitive jurisdiction with an improved application process in order to attract development.

In terms of ample access to the beach there are about twenty undeveloped road ends to the lake. These could all be developed into beach accesses at relatively low expense. In the long term we need to wait for the next recession in order to buy more beach front houses at an affordable price.

Philip Akins, council candidate

I agree that there is too little public access to our waterfront, though this has little to do with ‘rich home owners’ and everything to do with a planning legacy that privatized our shoreline many decades ago. Although reversing that legacy will require many decades more, this is something that I strongly support: over the long term I believe we should be opportunistically acquiring private waterfront in order to put this valuable asset back in public hands.

There are ways to do so affordably, and we should follow the example of Vernon, which recently developed a strategic plan for acquisitions and other approaches to increase lake access. In the shorter term, there are various things we can do. Certainly in those cases where home owners are illegally encroaching on the foreshore or blocking public access we should be proactively addressing this.

It is worth sending a clear signal that in West Kelowna we view public land as just that. More importantly, though, we can upgrade our existing waterfront access points, improve transit and pedestrian infrastructure (another key issue when discussing access), and gradually enhance the waterfront in its entirety to create a connected corridor of public amenities that will make this area an attractive and engaging focal point within our community.

We have a waterfront plan in place to guide these and other steps over the coming years, and having been a member of the advisory committee that helped create it in 2011 I would take a keen interest on council in implementing the plan’s recommendations.

Mary Mandarino, mayoral candidate

In West Kelowna using good judgement, residents and community leaders have been very diligent in protecting our water front access.

In Lakeview Heights area we have Kalamor Park, naturally treed, accessing the waterfront.

On Prichard Drive we have Pritchard Park , a beautiful manicured park with beach access.

We also have Green Bay with waterfront access.

The Gellatly Nut Farm Regional Park, on Withworth Rd. in Westbank is a beautiful 4 hectare Heritage Farm of nut trees with an extensive waterfront walkway. In addition this waterfront Park has recreational, archaeological and educational value.

Hazel Nut Park, on Withworth has trees that provide natural shade and access to the beach.

Heart Nut Park, on Witworth, has a walkway that leads to a rock wall and a beautiful pebble beach.

Beech Nut Park is located at George Court, dedicated to the late Stu Tunningly, a retired school teacher and a dedicated community volunteer.

I had the honour of working together with local pioneers and their families to preserve this beach access for public use instead of development which would have closed this beach access to the public.

West Kelowna has been fortunate to have residents and public officials dedicated to preserving public access to our waterfront.

Stephen Johnston, council candidate

I think we are fortunate to have a number of beach accesses here in West Kelowna. Some are quite large and developed, like Pritchard, Willow Beach and Gellatly Nut Farm, and some are beautiful gems tucked away in unlikely places. I think for the most part the city is doing a good job at ensuring the public has pedestrian access to the lake. One of the challenges we face with the waterfront though is boat access and trailer parking. We’ll need to begin to tackle this in the near future.

On another note West Kelowna has a Waterfront Master Plan that is, in my opinion, one of the best examples of forward thinking and city planning that we have. This seems to have been put on the shelf over the last term and is something I would like to see us re-engage. Its import to have a clear sustainable vision so that we can set milestones and ensure were heading in the right direction. This plan does just that, so lets put all that hard work to use.

Jerome Chung, council candidate

I am sure that the city did kept a lot of lake front accessibility to general public as required per se. Like in Galletly park, the Cove, Pritchard park, etc.

I am sure a lot of discontented residents would complain about beach access, park space, etc. But the city do have a by-law guideline to work with such public access and building codes to go by. Therefore, it is not an issue, unless there is a need to change the by-laws.

We have to leave this matter to the capable hands of the city planners as hired by the city manager. If there were any lack of performance, then it shall be address by the council. Only then, we can take action(s).

As this is an issue to be addressed by three levels of governance, the city, the RDCO, and the provincial gov’t has experts dealing with the environment and such, would be able to determine such public access to the Okanagan lake. However, in my opinion, there are ample of public access to the lake within the city of West Kelowna per capita.

Gordon Wiebe, council candidate

West Kelowna citizens can currently access the lakefront at Pebble Beach, Gellatly Nut Farm, Gellatly Bay, Pritchard Park and Kalamoir Beach. The city also has several lakefront “access points” located between lakefront properties. I think the city has done a good job of making the lake front accessible to all.

I’m more concerned about the costs associated with defending lakefront structures from the flooding than I am about impediments to beachfront access. This has been an issue over the last two springs.

While most of the “flood protection” costs are born by the provincial government, local taxpayers are still on the hook for a significant portion and it taxes our civic staff, distracting them away from their other duties. Perhaps that is a discussion the city needs to have.

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