Image: City of West Kelowna

West Kelowna keeps pressure on to scrap speculation tax at UBCM

Meetings with Ministry of Finance and a press conference with other mayors, West Kelowna pleaded their case

At today’s meetings with B.C. Government representatives at the 2018 Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler, Mayor and Council pressed for support from the province regarding the speculation tax, maintenance of the Glenrosa evacuation route along Jackpine Forest Service Road and the Central Okanagan Planning Study (second crossing).

RELATED: West Kelowna meets with ministers at UBCM

Mayor Doug Findlater and members of West Kelowna Council were provided with short face-to-face meetings with ministry staff and discussed the following issues:

Ministry of Finance

West Kelowna representatives reiterated to Ministry staff the city’s opposition to the province’s proposed speculation tax. West Kelowna is asking that it be excluded from the proposed tax and noted that the community’s vacancy rate is not accurately reported by the province, that the community will experience negative economic impacts as a direct result of the tax and that the financial support from growth which funds much-needed infrastructure improvements will diminish.

“We have been quite vocal that we think West Kelowna was included in the speculation tax due to incorrect assumptions,” said Findlater. “We’ve already seen one comprehensive development shelved as a direct result of this proposed tax. We know it will hurt us; we just need the province to seriously look at our information.”

Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development

The Jackpine Forest Service Road has been identified as an alternate evacuation route for the neighbourhood of Glenrosa. Forest service roads are only maintained if they are an active logging road or used for recreation and, therefore, Jackpine Road is not at a standard that an evacuation route should be. During wildfire season, it is imperative that this road be available as a safe evacuation route. Glenrosa with a population of 6,150 and 2,200 households) is essentially a one-way-in and one-way-out neighbourhood. In 2009 a wildfire threatened the access route to the community, nearly trapping residents and making evacuation difficult.

“We received a letter from the Ministry in 2016 stating the road wouldn’t be maintained and the evacuation signage we put in place was not allowed,” said Findlater. “This is a safety issue and continues to be one of council’s top priorities. Not only do we want formal permission to put up evacuation route signage, we need that road maintained to an evacuation route standard.”

Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure

The City of West Kelowna requested that the Ministry ensure West Kelowna is kept informed and consulted throughout the Central Okanagan Planning Study, a study into the Highway 97 corridor through the Central Okanagan including consideration of a second crossing across Okanagan Lake, to ensure decisions are not detrimental to the citizens of West Kelowna.

RELATED: Kelowna mayor seeking provincial support for homelessness plan at UBCM

“We requested ministry staff share findings of a recent public consultation it conducted,” said Findlater. “The highway, and any changes to it, will have significant impact on West Kelowna residents and we want to be sure that our voice is heard on the matter.”

The following City of West Kelowna resolution, submitted for consideration by the UBCM membership, passed.

Whereas the Local Government Act legislates the manner in which local governments may collect, hold and use Development Cost Charges (DCC) for the capital costs of park land;

Whereas the Local Government Act permits the use of DCC money for landscaping on parkland allowing for the construction of playing fields including such items as levelling ground, planting grass and other plant material, the legislation does not contemplate different forms of playing field surfaces such as manufactured surfaces and artificial turf which promotes water conservation, is environmentally friendly and requires less maintenance:

Therefore be it resolved that UBCM lobby the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to broaden the allowable uses of DCC reserve funds to include alternate recreation and field surfaces.

Findlater also took part in a media conference with the mayors of Langford, Kelowna, Parksville, Vernon and Radium Hot Springs who called on the government to halt the proposed speculation tax.

UBCM Delegates voted overwhelmingly in support of a motion to allow communities the right to choose whether or not, and how to, impose a vacant home tax.

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