Mayor Doug Findlater says West Kelowna will become the second city in the Central Okanagan before the end of the year.
West Kelowna started the process of changing from a district municipality to a city Wednesday after council gave staff the green light on Tuesday to start the working on meeting the requirements for the change. The change is expected to occur in the fall if the West Kelonwa residents not oppose the move.
Currently, Kelonwa is the only city in the Central Okanagan, with all the other incorporated jurisdictions being district municipalities.
“I think this is a good thing,” said Findlater. “There are benefits to being a city.”
Saying it will improve the image of the municipality, won’t confuse those who associate the District of West Kelowna with the Central Okanagan Regional District and the local school district, Findlater noted this will be the second time his municipality has tried to make the change.
A few years after incorporation, a similar request made to Victoria but was rejected by the government at that time.
But, after being told in September by Community Minister Coralee Oakes that she would support West Kelowna if it asked for the change this time, council said it was interested but put off dealing with the issue until after November’s civic election.
On Tuesday, the new council—made up of all but two members of the previous council—made the decision to proceed.
To get public approval for the change, West Kelowna will use the alternate approval process instead of holding a much more costly referendum.
District staff say while a referendum would cost an estimated $60,000, the AAP will cost only $1,500.
The AAP requires those opposed to sign petitions in a 30-day period. If 10 per cent of eligible voters or more sign petitions, the district would have to decide to either hold a referendum on the issue or scrap the idea of becoming a city.
Findlater said he expected the change would not cost taxpayers very much money and pointed to the newly reclassified City of Maple Ridge—which was also a district municipality before being reclassified by the government. Findlater said it was his understanding it cost MapleRidge less than $4,000 to go from being a district municipality to a city.
He said here, there is no official printed district letterhead to change as the municipality’s name is embedded in computer software that prints district stationary and can easily be changed. So there would not be a cost to reprint district stationary. As for signs—both free standing and on municipal vehicles and buildings—they would be changed when they need to be renewed, said the mayor, not before. The new City of West Kelowna would retain the existing municipal logo, simply changing the word “district” to “city” when it’s printed.
District staff say completing the process required to make the change to city status will likely take between nine to 12 months and cost an estimated $3,000.