Kelowna candidates talk foreshore

Kelowna candidates talk foreshore

Each week learn about your candidates views on issues facing 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?

Gordon Lovegrove, council candidate

On the speculation tax

Taxing empty homes can work to increase housing supply, but all this uncertainty and discussion is definitely not good for business nor investor confidence, we need to know the facts and do the math as soon as possible. Also, let’s not react without hearing details on legislation. Let’s nurture improved relationships with our Provincial partners such that two-way dialogue based on needs – not positions – can take place in a safer, trusted environment. Based on research and experience, Yuri Fisher’s book ‘Getting to Yes’ has details on needs-based dialogue, and has worked for me to create win-win solutions on even the most contentious projects over my 20 year engineering career across B.C. municipalities. Measured approaches sustain investor confidence.

The numbers released to date suggest that the speculation tax will only apply to homes left vacant for more than six months and of value greater than $400,000. An average Kelowna home is $700,000. By my math a BC resident would pay one per cent or $3,000 tax per year. If correct, this $3,000 could be recovered in less than two months of renting. Good renters can be found using made-in-Kelowna, UBCO-created or some other management agency (e.g. VRBO). So options exist to mitigate it. More details soon, but ringing alarm bells meanwhile is driving investors away.

What about non-B.C. and foreign investors who pay more? Their ability to pay is likely greater, and empty homes create burdens on our Kelowna housing market, so I understand the rationale, but again, rental would mitigate.

On the lakefront

“In working with several cities across B.C. where public access to beaches is a concern, my understanding of the problem is that the Crown (i.e. the Province of B.C., and public access) ‘owns’ the water course and the riparian zone (beach) below local high water level (HWL), and, that private property rights generally end at the high water mark. So the rub is that folks walking along the beach quite legally can walk all the way down our Okanagan Lake where there is beach between edge of water and HWL, except of course where docks physically block them. If my understanding is correct, we have some choices: 1) Enforce and remove unapproved docks (what many folks want); 2) Don’t enforce this (current situation); and 3) Work together for a community win-win. Folks want a resolution – both beach users and private dock owners. This is taking too long, what has been done to bring folks to the table and work out something? Doing nothing is a lose-lose solution folks, we can do better, we are Kelowna citizens after all, we care about everyone that calls Kelowna home and/or invests in Kelowna, right? Is this such a political hot potato, or just not a high enough priority, that it has been left this long? Lets consult stakeholders, make a decision, and do something. And lets set a 1 year deadline to resolve it, or to start enforcing the law in the result of a stalemate – last resort.”

Kevin Bond, council candidate

Every time this question is asked to the existing council their response is that it is a provincial problem and they do nothing. It is very obvious that laws are being broken and something must be done. I will not sit back and blame other levels of government for the problem. I will be taking immediate action to make sure the problem is rectified.

Dr. Mo Rajabally, council candidate

No owner of Okanagan Lakeshore property can build any structure on the beach that prevents the public from walking freely along the lake. Over the years however, Kelowna City Council has failed miserably to take action by approaching the Provincial Government.

The Provincial law is very clear. Stream and lakebeds are crown property. Supreme Court of Canada decision affirmed this by the 1894 North-West Irrigation Act. Stream and lake beds are crown property.

The B.C. ministry says some of those non-compliance cases have come to its attention through public complaints.

Lindsay Bell, council candidate

  • public access to the beach is something everyone should be able to enjoy with balancing the needs of the public and landowners
  • the city has been acquiring land for public use and this ensures we are building our access for more use
  • as the OCP is updated, the city can seek public input to determine if there is desire for more strategic acquisitions and at what price?
  • the plans for land acquisitions are generally kept in camera to protect the public from artificial value increases
  • more input from the public is always key in ensuring the community is following the wishes of the public

Luke Stack, council candidate

Citizen access to Okanagan Lake in the Kelowna area has increased significantly in the last few years. I am proud of the significant gains our Council has made. The city just approved pedestrian access upgrades to Poplar Point beach in north Kelowna. The city purchased and expanded the beach in McKinley landing; the city purchased the magnificent three acre Bluebird Beach in the Mission (just opening) and recently doubled the beach access on Hobson Road beside the Central Okanagan Sailing Association. In addition to this, the city will soon be proceeding to construct a new lakefront walkway from Strathcona beach to Royal Avenue. Finally, the city is just completing the beautiful walkway in the city center that connects Rotary Marshes to Okanagan Lake bridge. Gaining public access to the lake has been a priority for this last council. Each purchase has been made when it was prudent and economically viable to do so.

Craig Hostland, council candidate

There has been a lot of concern in recent years about whether the lakefront is being kept accessible to the general public. I am aware of concerns expressed about accessibility to the lake both for public and private lands. Free and unencumbered access to municipal lands is to be a foregone conclusion. Where impeded by private interests, I would recommend to council to litigate if a fair a reasonable resolution is not found through discussion and if necessary negotiation. Precedence has been set by past legal and municipal actions.

Some people are concerned that rich homeowners are able to build structures that impede beach use. Others complain there isn’t enough park space. The city has many fine parks. Its capital infrastructure account is negative a half billion dollars or so. As such, I am not eager to make that worse, unless a social cost benefit analysis provides a positive result regarding any particular opportunity. Parks, green spaces, and unencumbered access to beaches are an increase to our quality of life. Maintaining them should be a priority of this city.

Is there enough being done to make sure there is enough public space? I don’t think there is enough focus on this needed and expected quality of life requirement through City deliberations based on recent zoning and development decisions made by City Hall. Kelowna is a desired location for people and businesses. We should not easily drop our requirements in the face of competition, but stick to our guns regarding our desire to maintain and increase our public spaces. Council must be strong against adversity and not crumble to outside demands on our limited natural and corporate resources. A strong engineering brain trust on council will ensure that strong backbone against development variances that are against our agreed to vision for the future.

Once I’m elected I will review all the plans developed to date under the vision set by the previous council; verify that vision to be sustainable, work to ensure it is, then address the various short term and long term issues, one of which may be beach access.

Jeff Piattelli, council candidate

Lake access is an important matter when it comes to a city like Kelowna, which has many beautiful beach locations and is very reliant on tourism. Keeping these spots easily accessible will help maintain our city’s growth and encourage visitors from all over the world to keep coming back.

My opinion is that our downtown core, perhaps the most beautiful location in the city, is being overrun with people battling homelessness, addictions and other issues. Finding a proper solution to move this group of people and provide them with help, will at the same time, allow council to utilize these spaces more effectively and provide more parking, increased safety, and ease of access to Okanagan Lake.

Mark Boyer, council candidate

Just last Friday the City announced it had sold a parcel of land to a developer. The property at the corner of Watt and Lakeshore is used as a city parking lot for Gyro Beach. The city reduced the size of the parking at the beach and has now sold off the closest parking lot near it.

I’ve often heard it said you can only look at the lake, you just can’t touch it. The city needs to ensure beach access for all, selling off parcels of land like this reduces access for the average citizen and visitor to Kelowna. This will make Gyro beach pretty exclusive to those living in the area.

The city needs to step up to ensure all the citizens of Kelowna have access to the lake not just those whose backyards look on to it. As well citizens need to start lobbying the local and or NDP MLA’s to get some movement by the province on this issue.

Green space is important as a place for kids and families to play in. They should be safe and accessible. The city could be doing a better job of ensuring that park space is part of developer’s plans and one of the first things to go in to create a sense of community.

Loyal Woodridge, council candidate

Parks are an invaluable asset to any complete community for all community members to enjoy, the more the better! With over $90 million in undeveloped park assets we must generate new revenues to fund a strong Park Development Strategy. Most recently the city acquired lakefront property in the mission for $4.4 million for park use which should continue to be done if lakefront land comes available. In reference to impeding structures this must be a collaborative conversation with the Provincial government, land owners and residents to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone. The City of Kelowna can advocate the provincial government who hold jurisdiction on waterways to ensure that everyone’s rights are respected in order to reach an agreement where everyone wins and feel respected.

Ryan Donn, council candidate

I think for this weeks question let’s just look back at actions taken in the area of waterfront access by this council.

  1. Just last week we approved opening up the Poplar Point beachfront property by Knox Mountian Park.
  2. Acquired Bluebird Beach Park in 2015 opening up 3.6 acres to the pubic waterfront public featuring 705 feet of beach
  3. Earlier this year we bought the 0.89-hectare property at 4214 Hobson Road, next to the Central Okanagan Small Boat Association. It will open up to the public in 2019.
  4. In 2019 we will also finally see the waterfront area between Strathcona Park and Royal Avenue opening to the public.

I’d suggest more successes in this area than folks realize . It’s a good priority but it’s very expensive so we can only do so much. That said I do think folks will be impressed by the above stats and facts.

Colin Basran, mayoral candidate

Everyone in our community should have access to our community’s greatest asset, Okanagan Lake. Under my leadership, Kelowna residents will have greater access to the lake for generations to come thanks to two major lakefront park acquisitions of over 4 acres. 3.6 acre Bluebird Beach Park and a .89 acre parcel for a lakefront park on Hobson Road. Thanks to sound fiscal management, Council had the funds required to purchase these properties when they became available and will make them accessible for everyone to enjoy. Council will continue to invest in waterfront property when it is financially feasible to do so.

Council recently received initial approval from the Provincial government for the long-anticipated waterfront walkway allowing residents a beautiful, unimpeded walk between Strathcona Park and Glenwood Avenue. Construction of this amenity will commence once final approval is granted in the coming months.

After the flooding of 2017, we advocated for the Provincial government to add additional staff to process applications and enforce its laws as lakefront homeowners apply to rebuild docks that were destroyed. We will continue to urge the Province to ensure that all structures along the waterfront adhere to their guidelines.

Dustin Sargent, council candidate

Recent flood damage has brought this issue to the forefront our communities attention although it has always been of social interest to Kelowna residents.

There is no question by either the high paying tax foreshore homeowners or those who appose said foreshore ownership under high water marks that the beach belongs to everyone. I personally believe the city is continuing to purchase and enhance ample park space accessible to Kelowna citizens on the lake. The problem is as survey statistics shows by Kelowna residence the lack of transportation then parking to different and alternative local locations to enjoy the foreshore. 40 per cent of surveyed Kelowna residence identify public transportation and road congestion as an issue.

I love Kelowna’s parks and beaches but if we can’t get to them we will fight between ourselves for the ones we can. I’ve heard from residence that we need to provide parking for these beaches. I’m also keeping a close eye on the concept a small city in eastern Ontario that could one day have impact on our city. Belleville Transit has launched a new service allowing customers to summon a bus to their nearest bus stop, the ride won’t take the scenic route to their destination.

I love this idea when I see empty buses driving through Kelowna where we can make more use of our existing assets.

Mohini Singh, council candidate

City council is well aware of the concern raised by many Kelowna residents with respect to public access to the foreshore. From the low water mark, up to the high water mark is foreshore area that almost always belongs to the public.

However, there are some property owners who legally own foreshore area, and therefore the beach in front of their homes is private property.

Given that the majority of foreshore is held by the Crown, I believe that a lot more can be done to make the waterfront accessible to the public. A key action in accomplishing this goal will be removing or restructuring docks that are impeding public access over foreshore that is not privately held.

The floods over the past years have served as a catalyst to assess the current landscape we have with respect to foreshore structures and construction. To further that, I believe the next step is to ensure compliance of those who are infringing on the public’s right to access. I support the city working with the provincial government to vastly improve the access to the foreshore and ensure property owners comply with regulations.

As an incumbent councillor, I am proud to say we have purchased lakeshore property wherever possible, and dedicated it to public use e.g. Bluebird beach on Lakeshore Road.

If re-elected, I will ensure that whenever feasible, developers working on housing projects do not simply allocate lands for park use or development, but rather go the extra mile and take responsibility to ensure that the park/amenities are built.

Maxine DeHart, council candidate

I definitely am in favour of ensuring public access to our beaches and lakefront and definitely support enhanced access to the lakefront.

However, this is not not a black and white area of the law. The high water mark is a grey area in our jurisdiction. The Surveyor General of B.C. defines high water marks in B.C. and the jurisdiction below the high water mark is not in the city jurisdiction.The city encourages citizens to follow the correct riparian area regulations but it is largely a provincial matter. The city also does not condone illegal works on the lake. Many areas of the beachfront have been acquired and expanded by the city in the past few years for enhanced access to the citizens, including Bluebird Beach Park, the Rotary Park expansion and Hobson Road. In the past the provincial government has targeted the worse areas of offenders on the particular lake which included the Shuswap area.

We must continue to lobby the provincial government to continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the public gets proper access to the lakefront.

Gail Given, council candidate

The City of Kelowna is guided by the Park Acquisition Strategy and ‘Active Park Standard’ that targets an additional 2.2 hectares of parkland for every 1000 in new population growth. This strategy ensures that we continue to acquire parkland at an appropriate and level. This strategy identifies 4 different types of parks with a specific target of: 0.6 hectares of ‘neighbourhood park’, 0.4 hectares of ‘community park’, 0.6 hectares of ‘recreation park’, and 0.6 hectares of’ city-wide park’.

Linear and natural area parks are not included in this measure and are in addition to the 2.2 hectares. This park strategy is actively followed as we are acquiring land at a rate higher than the 2.2 standard. It is critical that this strategy continue and that parkland be delivered on a balanced way throughout our city.

Our issue at this point is finding the funding to develop and maintain all the parkland currently in our inventory. Council has challenged staff to find new ways to fund the development in order to make these lands more publicly accessible. This work is currently under way.

Our intention as a city is to develop our waterfront using the pearl and chain method where major parks are the pearls and connecting walkways are the chain. Our most recent pearl added to the necklace is the significant acquisition of Bluebird Beach. Staff continues to pursue the necessary lands as they become available and budgets allow.

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