Friday, July 30, 2010

Putting Lake Country on the Map

When I was hired by the District of Lake Country, I announced my new exciting opportunity and move to my good employer, friends and relatives. Although a small percentage of those I talked to knew about Lake Country, the vast majority of them reacted like this: "Wow! Congratulations! Where is Lake Country?" Then I had to explain.

People refer more easily to Winfield or Oyama and are not clear about the incorporation of the 4 wards into a district municipality, 15 years ago now.

For some people, Lake Country is the best kept secret and maybe it should be like that. But I believe, and Council agrees with me on this, that we need to put Lake Country on the map. We are not Kelowna North or Vernon South, we are a beautiful community with a great Okanagan spirit.

For this reason, Council has endeavored to take some initiatives to improve the image of the community and to provide the foundational work to enhance the uniqueness of Lake Country.

It all began with the goal to attract development in the Town Centre. The question was: 'How can we best support and attract developers to purchase land on Main Street and build viable commercial and residential units there?' The answers were to get to First Base first and begin from the basics.

First of all, we had to meet with the landowners and understand the market and the difficulty they were having to selling their land to good developers. 

The second step came from meeting with the landowners and it materialized in the creation and implementation of an Economic Planning and Development Committee of business savvy individuals from Lake Country to assist in cutting bureaucracy and recommending community development policies to Council to streamline processes and improve strategic analysis of business and development proposals.

Finally, the third step was to create a 'Community Brand' that would distinguish Lake Country and point to it like a GPS would do on a map. Yes, putting Lake Country on the map.

The Economic Planning and Development Committee has already met twice to discuss mainly the Town Centre and ways to assist the landowners and potential developers. The group has great dynamics and forward thinking individuals that are going to benefit Lake Country.

The EPDC was also given the task to proceed with the branding exercise. Funding was secured through the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and we received 22 incredible proposals. The process will take us to the end of March 2011, but we will have a unique brand that will identify the community and this area and provide our local businesses with a great opportunity to direct local, regional, and worldwide customers to our beautiful municipality.

These are exciting times for all of us.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Small News

Parks and Recreation staff are currently building a new road and parking lot into the dog park off Woodsdale Rd. We ask that all users of the dog park please use this driveway and parking lot and to not park on Reimke Rd.

The Economic Development Committee met to discuss the Town Centre development. It is a Council's priority and committee members are reviewing the draft Official Community Plan to provide some feedback to Council in order to refine the vision for Main Street. They also initiated a branding exercise, which is funded by the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA). It was clear, from the discussion, that branding and marketing of Lake Country is critical to the economic growth of our community but also to put Lake Country 'on the map', so to speak. Requests fro Proposals are accepted until July 26, 2010.

There will be a Regular Council meeting on July 20, 2010. The Official Community Plan Bylaw is back for discussion and the recommendation is to give second and third reading to the Bylaw. The OCP was the subject of a Public Hearing on May 27 and the feedback Council received was reviewed and included in the staff report going on the agenda for the meeting. Aside from some small amendments, staff are recommending that the current draft be approved. My comment in the report is that we should have completed an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan prior to review the OCP. I guess it will be the next plan to complete.

There was a power outage last week on teh Fortis system in the early hours of Saturday morning. This utility supplies power to the Okanagan Lake pump house. Given the summer flows from it, staff monitored our reservoir from about 2am until it reached a critical low (getting into the fire flow reserves). They switched to the Beaver lake system which required us to contact the users. They switched back at about 7am.


Age-Friendly Community Update

Lake Country Residents!

I'm pleased to annouce that our first focus group for the Age-friendly Living Guidelines Project will be held next week on Friday July 23rd, at the Municipal Hall in the Carr's Landing Room, from 1-3pm. We still have room for a few more participants, so if the time works for you, please drop me a line at to confirm your attendance.

You can also find us on the Castanet Lake Country forums if you're interested in making your voice heard through that medium instead. The more conversation that we can generate around the challenges and opportunities presented by age-friendly planning, the more we can work collectively for an age-friendly future in the District. So, tell your friends, tell your neighbours, and do contact us if you have ideas or thoughts you would like to see incorporated into the project as time moves ahead.

For some examples of age-friendly planning undertaken in other municipalities, you might want to check out what the state of Minnesota has been working on, what the town of Creston accomplished in their age-friendly planning audit, and how the UK government is working to ensure that housing stocks for people of all ages are readily available. Age-friendly planning is the new wave of sustainable town planning and the District is in the thick of the action!

Thought of the Week

I try to take time every week for reflection and meditation. It helps to keep a perspective of life. I also share this with staff and Council every week. I thought to share this with the community as well, through this blog. Here's the one I just sent staff and Council today.

"A few days ago I read an interesting comment from a  friend of mine discussing personal healing and growth. He wrote: “On the way of healing, I found my prison. Some time ago I asked myself why I was not able to do some important things to reach a happy life. With the help of my journal, I discovered my weaknesses and my shortcomings, and the hundreds of things I could improve in my life. I used to compare myself to others and I used to ask myself ‘why am I not like him or her?’ or ‘why don’t I have her talent or his ability?’ Then I changed my focus to others rather than me and I discovered their strengths and weaknesses. Like me, others fall on the same weaknesses and shortcomings. I finally understood to be a prisoner of my own personality. I understood that I am not completely free. I am a prisoner and I found out that many individuals around me were and are prisoners too. The only difference is that, most of the time, they don’t know it. Sometime I am able  to get out of the prison with the help of spiritual means, such as meditation, prayer, and fasting. I then enter a different dimension. All seems different: people, problems, the very vision of life, the ability to do more.”

How profound! I was touched by these words and recognized myself in them. Many times I feel trapped: by circumstances, or common places, or the false sense of security of familiar ebbs and flows of life. One of my favourite authors, Brazilian writer Paulo Coehlo, has written a few books on this very topic. He once took a pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Santiago de Compostella in Spain. The destination was breathtaking, but the journey was the most important part of this life changing experience for him. We do not need to take a pilgrimage to a physical location to be pilgrims in the  journey of life. However, once in a while, we need to step back to clearly see. And yes, this is a journey we need to take alone."


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Council Meeting Highlights for July 6, 2010

Council met last night to discuss a few development applications and other issues on the agenda. Some of the councillors were away on family or other business but the councillors in attendance provided their usual wisdom and good discussion.

Westcan Gravel Pit

There was some discussion about the projected Westcan gravel pit project on the Westside, opposite Carr's Landing. The concern is the possible scarring of the land and the visual impact it could have on Carr's Landing residents. This issue was referred by the Province to the Regional District for comments. The concerns are shared by a number of people and they will be checked and taken into account prior to a final decision on whether to support this application is made. The Mayor raised a good point that the actual pit is hidden by a peak and it will not be visible from Carr's Landing. Another point made is that the Province has the power to approve the application even if the Regional District is not supportive of it. Westcan is a company owned by the Westbank First Nation.

Temporary Road Closure

Single lane alternating traffic will be in effect July 6th to September 3rd, between 7 am and 7 pm, Monday to Saturday, on Roberts Road and Pretty Road, between Roberts Road and Pretty Court, due to watermain upgrade. So expect some minor delays if you are driving through those areas.

Pebble Beach and BC Hydro

BC Hydro is doing some work involving the closure of the Safe Harbour, specifically the installation of submarine cables. Although it was known that these works would proceed at some point, Council was concerned for the lack of proactive communication from BC Hydro to Council and the residents that would be affected by the works. The issue is that the District was notified just hours prior to the works being commenced, which will affect usage of the Safe Harbour from July 19 to August 6. A letter will be sent to BC Hydro to express these concerns and find a better mutual way to communicate between BC Hydro and the District.

Municipal Ticket Information Bylaw

The Director of Corporate Services, who is responsible for the Bylaw Services (Enforcement) Department, presented the new Municipal Ticket Information (MTI) Bylaw to Council. Although the main purpose of the report was to update the current bylaw, it also addressed the need for more consistency and tools for bylaw enforcement in the community. In the past, enforcement was contracted to the Commissionaires and tickets couldn't be issued for all bylaw infractions but only for some (because the bylaw needed update). The new bylaw is a new more effective tool to address bylaw violations.

Development Applications

A number of development applications were presented to Council for approval.

Bylaw 719 is a comprehensive review of the current Zoning Bylaw 561. It has been in the works for a few months and was given 3rd reading in January of this year and then referred to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval prior to Council's final adoption. The Ministry, which reviews these bylaws thoroughly, decided that some changes needed to be made to ensure consistency with their policies regarding land use and traffic/transportation issues. Last night, those changes were made and a new 3rd reading was given to the bylaw, which will be sent to the Ministry for final approval and then back to Council for final adoption.

Some people complained that they are not able to access and enjoy crown land adjacent to the Raven Ridge development in Carr's Landing. One of the lots was also fenced to ensure proper care of the property (Lot 15). The reality is that Rave Ridge is private property and people have been trespassing all along. By the same token, access to public land is a right for all and something needs to and will be done. The property is been subdivided and as part of the subdivision, a strip of land will be dedicated to the District for public use, which will provide access to the adjacent crown land. All in due time.

A few items were referred back to staff for clarification on a number of issues. One was a road closure in Okanagan Centre to align an existing right-of-way with the current status of the adjacent property and the road. Engineering has some concerns and they wish to review this matter further.

Another application for the discharge of a Land Use Contract with the Pixie Beach Resort was also referred back to staff for more discussion with the applicant especially with respect to the size of the proposed buildings to be constructed on the property (too big?).

Finally, a variance on a property on Redecopp Road was also deferred to the July 20th Council meeting upon the request of the Engineering department to review some servicing requirements or exemption from as requested by the applicant.

And that was it in a nutshell.


Age-friendly Blog

As we are working to complete our age-friendly conceptual plan, we are engaging the public in different ways. One of them is a blog that is kept by our planner Shane Cote. You can find the link on our website at

In his first post, Shane provided information on upcoming public engagement appointments. Here's what he wrote:

"You might be wondering why the District has chosen the idea of “age-friendly” as a handle for planning a sustainable, socially supportive future for Lake Country. It’s important to know that age-friendly communities are places that are welcoming and supportive of all age groups. Building accessible facilities means that it is easy to move around in your community, whether you are carrying groceries home from the farmer’s market and need it to be easy to get in your building without putting everything down, pushing a stroller and appreciate a wider aisle or a no-step entryway into the public library, or using a mobility device such as a wheelchair or walker and appreciate the fact that you don’t have to use the back door to attend a Council meeting.

Lake Country is excited to be joining the ranks of municipalities all over the world that are being proactive in creating plans for the future that incorporate the needs of all ages and abilities. The focus groups that will be happening this summer are an avenue for you to let us know what makes the difference for you in terms of a supportive, friendly and sustainable community. Is it parks? Benches? Footpaths? A place to connect with your neighbours? A job or volunteer position that allows you to give back to your community? A sense of contribution and fulfillment through helping others? Somewhere to hang out with your friends that isn’t school, work or the local mall? Transportation to events? Age-friendly planning has elements of all of these things, and more. Email us at to sign up for a focus group or for more information about the project.

Looking forward to meeting you!"