URBA needs a stronger voice on city council

The former president of the Uptown Rutland Business Association is pretty ticked off at Kelowna city hall. This week Todd Sanderson sent off a sharply worded letter to the mayor and council that reflects what many within URBA have been quietly upset about for some time.

The former president of the Uptown Rutland Business Association is pretty ticked off at Kelowna city hall. This week Todd Sanderson sent off a sharply worded letter to the mayor and council that reflects what many within URBA have been quietly upset about for some time.

Sanderson, a candidate for city council in the city’s last by-election and a potential candidate again for the 2011 civic election this November, feels Rutland is getting shafted by city hall, despite the best patient efforts of URBA to change its community’s identity. (See story on page A6.)

URBA was created to help market and promote Rutland’s business centre, in the same way the Downtown Kelowna Association operates within the city’s downtown core.

To assist with those efforts, business and property owners within URBA’s Business Improvement Area pay a special levy to help fund those efforts.

But to be effective in bringing about such meaningful change, civic governments also need to be on board—sometimes it takes money, sometimes it takes staff support and sometimes it’s just to get out of the way of tangible progress.

But that lack of support is what Sanderson has taken issue with in his letter. He cites URBA’s move to beautify utility boxes in its area without city support, after an application for help with the program was rejected by council, only to see city turn around and expand the program across the city, presumably in part because of how well the project was received by Rutland area residents and business owners.

Sanderson says then URBA partnered with the city on a market study and a charette to find a way to encourage development. The study and process went fine and the city’s consultant identified a very inexpensive and practical way to improve Roxby Park on Highway 33. But no budget was allotted to move forward.

He said URBA has spent $35,000 to improve the Scarecrow Festival, the group’s signature community event, while the city partnered with a $5,000 grant, which Sanderson said is slightly more than a recent proposal before city council to grow vegetables in a garden plot outside city hall.

Sanderson said URBA is in danger of running out of steam and is losing support from its members and he blames the lack of political will for creating that worst-case scenario.

“Your lack of support for Rutland will be a direct cause of URBA’s demise and that is a shame,” Sanderson writes.

I think the first step will be for someone with strong ties to Rutland to get elected to city council this fall, giving the community a committed voice at the council table. The late Brian Given was that person in the past, and played a helpful role in bringing together the area BIA.

The potential for Rutland’s urban core is promising, given the increased development in the Black Mountain area. But as Sanderson acknowledges, URBA can’t make that happen on its own. A stronger voice on council might help realize that potential quicker.

Barry Gerding is managing editor of the Capital News.

bgerding@kelownacapnews.com