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Kelowna, Lake Country boundary has odd history with old whiskey distillery

Coun. Bill Scarrow is still advocating for a boundary change

After more than 20 years since Lake Country’s incorporation, one councillor is still advocating for the inclusion of residents near Ellison Lake to the district.

Coun. Bill Scarrow was part of Lake Country’s first council when it formed in 1995. During that time, the district campaigned to include residents along Beaver Lake Road and OKIB Reserve No. 7 as part of the district, but that didn’t end up happening.

Residents identify with Lake Country

People who live in that area identify with Lake Country over Kelowna, Scarrow said.

“They still participate in our community in every way. In order for them to vote in the municipal election, they have to go to Ellison to vote.”

Back in 1995, Scarrow conducted a survey in that area where 95 per cent of residents said they identified with Lake Country, but after being sent to the province, it went nowhere, he said.

Scarrow called the Industrial Park Kelowna’s toilet bowl.

“Unfortunately as far away from their centre is our centre, so I’ve always had an issue there,” he said.

While he said it’s unattainable to have Kelowna move the industrial park, he’d like to see all of Beaver Lake Road, IR No. 7 be included under Lake Country’s jurisdiction.

Cam Manning is a resident of IR No. 7 and said it’s a concern because taxes are paid to Kelowna, but they use Lake Country’s services and resources. The Lake Country fire department currently monitors the area.

Manning said it’s not a big deal that he’s a Kelowna resident, but he identifies as being part of Lake Country.

When it comes to voting, he said he would like to be considered a Lake Country resident because he would rather vote for councillors in Lake Country.

Another resident of IR No. 7, Patty Mulligan, tells people he has a Kelowna address, but he’s a Winfield guy.

He was involved with the Lake Country Fire Department, attended church there, and feels pretty entrenched in the district, he said.

Though he’s never seen a Kelowna councillor out near his house, he doesn’t mind being a part of Kelowna.

He suggested that the Central Okanagan should operate as a single entity, rather than several municipalities.

Discussions didn’t change the boundary

Walter Grey was the mayor of Kelowna at the time of Lake Country’s incorporation and said the discussions went nowhere with Lake Country’s request to change boundary lines.

They identify with being Lake Country residents because that’s where they shop, he said. He met with people prior during that time, talking to people about the transit service, but people didn’t seem to mind being in Kelowna.

Bob McCoubrey was Lake Country’s first mayor when it incorporated in 1995. Prior to its incorporation, it was part of the Regional District of the Central Okanagan.

That whole area of Kelowna from Ellison Lake north, which everyone in Winfield always considered part of Lake Country, was put into the City of Kelowna in 1973 by an order of the provincial government, he said. The NDP government of the day looked at the development happening around cities around the province and decided to make the cities bigger so the development control would be in control in the hands of the people trying to make the cities work.

The theory was since the bigger city would control the regional district, they wouldn’t allow development outside of their own boundary and would do logically development within their boundary, he said.

But there was opposition from Kelowna and the regional district at the time, and they argued it would be too expensive to manage.

Whiskey distillery gives Lake Country boundary a different shape

“They looked out at Hiram Walker (a large whiskey distillery on Beaver Lake Road) and (Kelowna) looked at that manufacturing basin and said we need that tax basin in order to make this work,” McCoubrey said.

READ MORE: The Hiram Walker legacy in Winfield

To deal with that, they ran the boundary from Reid’s Corner, out the west side of Highway 97 to Beaver Lake Road, down the road, circled Hiram Walker and came all the way back down the highway.

“So there was this long thin ribbon,” he said, before the boundary was adjusted to where it was today. And if you look on a map, you can still see its odd shape along Beaver Lake Road.

At the time, McCoubrey’s father was a regional director for Area A, now Lake Country, and he argued the district would never be a viable city without the distillery’s tax base.

The Winfield Curling Centre was to be built, and the rural district was dependant on that tax base, McCoubrey said. The tradeoff for the distillery was Kelowna had to pay for part of the arena’s debt.

Then industrial properties began to join Kelowna’s jurisdiction, because as a rural district, if there’s a property in an incorporated area, you just need the approval of the landowner and the city to incorporate, he said.

“What we see is more and more industrial going into that area, and it’s right up against our boundary. The tax base with all the money is going south,” he said.

Hiram Walker closed in 1995 water infrastructure was purchased by the Winfield and Okanagan Centre Irrigation District and ultimately transferred to municipal control when Lake Country was incorporated.

RELATED: Complaints about sales of provincial land appears to be political posturing

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said boundary’s discussions with Lake Country have not come up during his time on council.

“Certainly, we will look at any requests of Lake Country council, but from a Kelowna council standpoint there’s been no (discussion) or desire at this point to change any of the boundaries,” he said.

Lake Country Mayor James Baker joked that in 50 years, Lake Country will be a Metro Kelowna, but for the time being, it’s nice to get along with the district’s neighbours.

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