West Kelowna offered its residents a three-for-one deal Thursday—and plenty of residents took it up on the offer.
For the first time, the municipality presented three major community plans—its waterfront plan, its agricultural plan and its plan for the future of the Westbank centre—at an open house, and the turnout was strong.
From the moment the doors opened at 3 p.m. residents streamed in wanting to see details of the plans and appearing happy with what they saw.
“There are plenty of good ideas here,” said Westbank resident Philip Akins.
“(Combining the three plans) allows people to come and see what they are most interested in, but also see other things,” he added. “It gives a big picture view.”
Another Westbank area resident, Laurie Paynter, agreed, saying having all three plans on display at the same time, in the same location, gets more people out.
In her case, she said, as a farmer she was interested in the agricultural plan, as a Westbank-area resident she was interested in the Westbank Centre plan and because her family enjoys the lakeshore, was also interested the municipality’s plans for the waterfront.
According to West Kelowna chief administrative officer Jason Johnson, the idea of have putting three major plans on display at the same time and inviting public feedback is novel.
“It’s the first time we have done this,” he said.
Currently, the fledgling municipality has a whopping 14 plans on the go, all at various stages of development and all taking a great deal of staff time. Such a large number on the go at the same time is unheard of for a municipality, especially one the size of West Kelowna. Normally a municipality would have just a few ongoing over the course of a year.
But Johnson said because the administration is basically working from scratch—the municipality of 30,000 only incorporated in December 2007—there is a need to be ambitious in the early years because that allows it to deal with issues and make decisions that are not made in isolation.
Still, the workload on the 140-member municipal staff is currently very heavy. Johnson said a municipality the size of West Kelowna would typically have a staff of about 300.
Thursday’s open house, which ran for four hours at the Royal LePage Place, included surveys for all who attended, with the aim of gathering as much public feedback to the plans as possible.
District staff said they were very happy with the turnout and, depending on where additional plans are in the completion process, would consider similar multi-plan open houses in future.
The district will go through the feedback forms and is expected to report back to council in the coming weeks.