Monday will reveal whose interests the City Councillors you voted for represent: the public and best practices, or special interests that have driven land use policy in the past. Growth Scenario 3 which is a path for more compact and responsible growth for Kelowna will be presented. This scenario was overwhelmingly supported by community engagement and best addresses the challenges we face as growing city. It ranks particularly high with reducing congestion, low taxes, growing the economy, agricultural protection, creating a livable community, mitigating climate change and providing transportation choices.
Scenario 3 however, is at risk due to heavy lobbying. A scenario has emerged outside of the democratic process and resembles more closely Scenario 2 that 77% of the public rejected. It was never part of the public engagement and there is no transparency of its origins.
Scenario 3 allows for 19% of new growth or 9,500 for future residents to live in new suburban areas. The remaining growth will occur within existing developed areas, while providing a broader range of housing types that includes the “missing middle” and doesn’t primarily focus on tall buildings to accommodate population growth. Scenario 2.5 would add an additional 7,000 residents or 33% of future growth into taxpayer subsidized urban sprawl by 2040. By all metrics, Scenario 2.5 is in the negative direction when compared with Scenario 3. With Kelowna’s $500 million infrastructure deficit, even with tax increases and infrastructure levies expected over the next ten-year capital plan, Kelowna can’t afford to move into a direction that will increase this burden.
Kelowna’s largest public engagement process (over 4,000 responses) Imagine Kelowna resulted in the following vision that is endorsed by council:
“Kelowna is a thriving city and an incredible place to call home. To flourish in the future, we need to be agile, resilient and unafraid to do things differently. The community has made it clear that as we grow, we need to look out for one another and protect the stunning environment that sustains us. Our vision for an inclusive, welcoming, prosperous and sustainable future calls upon us all to be ambitious to embrace the challenges ahead.”
It’s time for Kelowna to own this vision and support Growth Scenario 3, or be owned by special interests and risk losing the opportunity to make Kelowna a more livable and successful city. Write to Mayor and Council your support for Growth Scenario 3 by tomorrow and watch closely to see who they represent at Monday’s vote.
Robert Stupka, P.Eng., Kelowna