Council able to trim tax hike thanks to $2-million windfall 

Council able to trim tax hike thanks to $2-million windfall 

Kelowna Daily Courier

Ron Seymour

Apr 30, 2018

 

Last-minute additions to the City of Kelowna’s 2018 budget include four new bylaw officers, several financial analysts and the quickened development of a Rutland park.Council on Monday approved a final budget that sets a municipal tax increase of three per cent, down from the 3.6 per cent that was provisionally set last December. About $2 million worth of unexpected revenues provided the wriggle room, which was seized by councillors not only to lower the tax rate but also to fund several new initiatives worth about $1 million.

 

 “I’m really happy to see where council has landed on this budget,” Mayor Colin Basran said.

 

Kelowna’s municipal taxes are still below the level of most B.C. communities with populations in excess of 75,000, Basran said.

 The four new bylaw officers will work primarily to address social problems in the downtown area. “Not everybody who is on our streets is just down on their luck,” Basran said. “There are people doing street-level crimes who are causing problems.” Along with increased enforcement of bylaws and an enhanced policing effort, Basran said the city was committed to tackling social issues with a variety of “multi-faceted” approaches including the provision of housing. “Before we take any flak for trying to chase this problem away from one area of the community, we’re not,” Basran said.

 

A three per cent tax hike means the owner of a typical single-family home that increased in value by 16 per cent to $641,000 will pay $1,990 in municipal taxes this year, about $60 more than last year.Larger-than-expected revenues from FortisBC, more proceeds from municipal investments and reduced borrowing costs allowed for the tax hike to be trimmed.

 

“I’m happy to see it below three per cent,” Coun. Stack said, referring to the usual city practice of stretching out tax hikes to several decimal places, in this case 2.99 per cent. “I wasn’t a big fan of it being over three per cent.”

 

Rutland Centennial Park will get a further upgrade, of nearly $500,000, for expansion of a playground and landscaping improvements. Several financial analysts will be added to the municipal staff.

 

Coun. Gail Given, a member of the city’s audit committee, said the addition of the financial analysts will help ensure the city operates in the most cost-efficient way possible.

 

“Analysts equal savings, and it means the mistakes will be minimal, hopefully none,” said Coun. Maxine DeHart.

 

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Capri Center Master Plan

Once burned, twice shy. That's the attitude Kelowna city council seemed to take Monday in deferring acceptance of a master plan for redevelopment of the 20-acre Capri Mall site.

The plan differed slightly, which concerned some councillors still smarting after not getting what they thought they were from the Central Green site.       

In an unprecedented, and unusual move, council not only deferred a decision on the master plan, but also gave approval for construction of the first of 14 residential buildings, a 22-storey tower, for the corner of Capri Street and Sutherland Avenue.

Council went back and forth on the merits of the revised master plan for the 20-acre site, a plan that was altered from one approved two-years ago.

Much of the issue surrounds use of the public park, and in particular, and NHL-size ice rink at the centre of the development.

Coun. Luke Stack said he was uncomfortable not knowing whether the rink would be controlled by the developer or the strata council.

"All the density we have supported here was because we were getting some public amenities, but I'm not comfortable at this point that it is a public amenity," said Stack.

"It sounds to me like it's a private amenity that they will let someone use from time to time."

Stack said the original plan had a more "inviting passageway" through the site. It showed how roads and bike paths went through the property and where the transit stops would be located.

"It looked more inviting to the public...now, I'm seeing more of a fortress type of mentality around what could be a private amenity."

Leo Mariotto, president of ICR Projects, the developer of the site, told council the master plan before them is just an evolution of the original. He said the intent is not to change any of the amenities promised two years ago.

He promised public access to the park and rink, saying the intent is for everyone to enjoy the rink, shop and go to a bar, if there is one.

"There's no question we can provide public access," he said.

As for timing, Mariotto said the plan is for the three towers along Capri Street to be built first, with the fourth and fifth towers along Sutherland Avenue to go next.

"The fourth tower would require the food store to relocate.

"Although I can't say the ice rink would start at that time, once the towers along Sutherland are built, it is logical the ice rink would then happen."

But, he said, that logic could change over five, 10 or 20 years.

Despite assurances nothing had chanced, council wanted certainty. They also wanted answers to several questions which were not forthcoming to their satisfaction.

"I have no doubt the developer is coming to us in good faith, but the thing I have is that so many questions weren't answered, I can't, in good faith, go to the public and say I did my job," said Coun. Maxine DeHart.

"This is a huge thing for use...but I just think we need some better answers."

Mayor Colin Basran, one of three on council to vote against deferral, says he likes the new plan, but understood a majority on council want some clarity before moving forward.

"With all the drawings and all the modeling, council just wants to be sure that what's being brought forward is actually what gets built, or as close to it as possible," said Basran following the meeting.

But, we have to remember too that to build this site out is going to require a lot of time. We have to recognize there are a number of things that are going to change over time like market demand, like best practices, like trends, building materials and requirements.

"While there may be an expectation from the public that what's presented should be exactly what is going to be built, but I think what was found out today was it's merely aspirational to a degree and things will evolve over time."

The developer and staff will sit down to try and bring clarity to some of the concerns before returning to council.

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Is the sky the limit?

This article appeared in the Capital News. I thought it summarized the many city centre changes I have overseen in Kelowna in recent years. 

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Beacon to the Future

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Top 10 - Kelowna Daily Courier Jan 13, 2018

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This article was published in the Okanagan Weekend paper on January 13, 2018. I was pleased to be recognized. 

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Low Vacancy Rates Continue to Challenge Kelowna

This story was in the Capital News on November 29, 2017

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New and Improved Stuart Ice rink Heater

I am really pleased that this new gas heater will warm everyone up at Stuart Park this winter. Thanks to our City staff for taking the initiative. 2017 Heater

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Kelowna's China Town (Lawrence and Leon)

One of the speakers at Saturday's event was Tun Wong, a longtime Kelowna resident who was born in Chinatown, which used to be enclosed by Harvey and Leon avenues and Abbott and Water Streets. Wong's mother, who was born in China, moved to Kelowna as a child in 1929 and raised Wong and his 10 siblings in Chinatown. “I've tried for years to try and get a plaque or a sign to designate Kelowna's Chinatown to honour its past residents and the sufferings they went through,” Wong said Saturday. “This sign has far exceeded what I ever had in mind.” The last of the buildings in Kelowna's Chinatown were demolished in the 1970s, but the new sign will preserve this history for generations to come.

The sign was designed by Arthur Lo, a retired Kelowna art teacher who sketched the design in 30 minutes during an Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association meeting in 2015.

After two years of planning, the sign was finally installed Friday.

The $32,000 sign was funded in equal parts by the Okanagan Chinese Canadian Association, the City of Kelowna through the federal government's Canada 150 grant and the Central Okanagan Foundation.

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Kelowna Fire Department Graduation

2017 Fire fighters

Congratulations to Kelowna's newest recuits. These men and women are joining the Kelowna Fire Department. Today they participated in a ceremony marking the completion of their training. Each was awarded an official hat to mark the transition.  Chief Whiting,and all in attendance, were proud to welcome them to the Kelowna Fire Department as both Fire Fighters and Dispatchers.  

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Historic Surtees' Property gets new life

2017 Sutees gets new life

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102 Day Emergency

From Castanet By Wayne Moore

August 15, 2017

It's been 102 days – and counting. That's how long the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre has been up and running since floods first hit the region in early May.

Kelowna Coun. Luke Stack, sitting in as acting mayor Monday, took the opportunity to thank those who have put in time at the EOC to ensure residents are safe. "They have been doing double duty, as many have been seconded from their regular daily work to take on additional responsibility within the EOC," said Stack. "These folks, for those who don't know, are doing their regular job, and manning the Emergency Operations Centre."

The EOC was activated on May 5 after heavy rains the night before, combined with snowmelt, caused massive flooding throughout the region.The centre also pulled double duty last month after a wildfire in Okanagan Centre displaced hundreds and destroyed eight homes.

Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi, who helps oversee the centre, says the real story within those walls is the fact it's been a regional approach. "If you walked into the EOC on any given day, there would be a communication person from Kelowna, or Westbank First Nation, or West Kelowna and an engineer from Peachland," said Mattiussi. "It really was the strength that we could call upon the whole region, and the whole region responded by sending people who were pretty busy, to fill in."

Stack said everyone looks forward to the day when the EOC can be decommissioned, "and our lives can return to normal." While the flood danger has passed, the EOC will remain operational until cleanup is complete.

 

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RCMP Get a new Home

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(Castanet) Kelowna RCMP officers marched through downtown streets to their new headquarters, Tuesday. Dozens of passers-by stopped to take in the parade of Mounties in red serge, auxiliary constables, RCMP volunteers and civilian staff from the regional detachment area.

"This is a really big deal for our community. Most importantly, this will allow the RCMP to do their jobs more efficiently and make our community safer," said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran. 

"It's a very proud moment for myself and the other employees of our building to move into such a state of the art facility. This is the first opportunity I have been able to work in a new detachment," said said Supt. Brent Mundle. "The citizens of Kelowna and the city council have done an outstanding job at providing us with a professional building to do police services from.

"I am pleased to have played a small part in securing this new building for the RCMP."  Luke Stack

Pictured below L-R C/Supt. Brad Haugli; Councillor Maxine Dehart, District Commander Brenda Butterworth-Carr and Councillor Luke Stack.

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MOU signed with Westbank First Nation

The Regional District of the Central Okanagan and the Westbank First Nation signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the protection and conservation of cultural heritage sites in the Regional Parks. Pictured here is Chair Given and Chief Roxanne Lindley signing the official documents. This is another important step on our journey of reconciliation with indiginous people in our region. I was honored to be a Board member of the Regional District and support this important initiative. (Picture taken at Two Eagles resort)

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New Infill Housing

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Rental Building Boom in Kelowna

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Kelowna is finally getting some much needed rental housing. 

 

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May is Asian Heritage Month in Kelowna

We celebrated the opening of Asian Heritage Month in Kelowna last night at a celebration at the Okanagan College. The focus this year is on Japan. Featured performances by Alcin Ryuzen Ramos, Yaabiko Taiko and Sensei Chris Taneda (Karate). Pictured above are the many children in attendance singing along with Alcvin.

2017 Asian Heritage 

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Mission Creek Restoration Award

2017 Mission Creek Restoration pic

Congratulations to Todd Cashin, of the City of Kelowna, for being recognized by his peers for the Mission Creek Restoration Project. This multi-partnership team is a great example of making a significant environmental improvement to this valued creek in Kelowna. The award is from the "Species and Ecosystems at Risk Local Government Working Group."  In this picture Todd is being recognized by Deputy Mayor Mohinni Singh and all of Kelowna City Council. 

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Council - Midterm check-in

Kelowna City Council is at the mid point in its four year term. This editorial was posted by Alistair Waters of the Capital News

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Apple Valley Building 3 approved

The Society is Hope is pleased to announce that the Provincial Government has funded the developemnt of building 3 under the Federal Infrastructure Program. This project will add 47 new units of senior rental housing to Kelowna. It will complete the Apple Valley complex. Construction will begin in Spring 2017 and complete in Spring 2018. 

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School Tours City Hall

Kelowna Christian School

Each Year the City offers Schools the opportunity to conduct tours of City Hall. Typically these tours consist of grade 3 children. They get an opportunity to learn about municipal government and the job it does on their behalf. I have been doing these tours for many years. I always enjoy the interaction with the children. They often bring prepared questions to challenge us! The children really enjoy meeting the Mayor on their visit. In this picture the children are learning about the "Spririt of Kelowna" wall. This wall celebrates Kelowna's 100th birthday which took place in 1905.

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