Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lake Country is Moving Forward

On Thursday and Friday last week, Council and staff met to establish the District's priorities for the new term and the debate was about narrowing down the District's focus to some essential and fundamental targets. There was much debate but in the end it looks like economic development, water quality, and safe and well maintained infrastructure are at the top of the list.

The group was able to identify more than one hundred projects and issues for discussion but was also comfortable to combine many of those under a number of categories to establish the top priorities to tackle in the next first months in office.

The Water Master Plan and its implementation were again at the top of the list. As you may recall, this was also the top priority in the previous term. Much was done in the last two years, to the point that a preferred option was chosen by Council and information sessions were held in order to create awareness of the plan and the chosen option. The next step will be to acquaint the new Council members with the plan, the capital projects that are needed to implement the strategy and the corresponding cost, and finally to have the plan finalized and approved prior to the 2013 budget cycle. The first step will be to present the plan and the necessary background information to Council in January and work with the consultant to prepare the final consolidated plan.

It is important to remind that the volunteers sitting on the Water Advisory Committee spent countless hours to steer and guide the process this far. They have supported the preferred option and have assisted with the public information process. It is also important to remind that there are some immediate needs that the District is already working on. Probably the most significant is the former Wood Lake water system, which will positively affect and improve the long standing issue of water quality in Oyama. We have repeatedly said that the new system will be ready in 2013 and that work has begun this year thanks to a grant from the provincial and federal governments. Finally, the issue of water rates will have to be discussed as part of the budget process. The question is whether a major increase is necessary immediately or it can wait until the next budget process. Again, this is something Council will debate and decide likely in January.

With respect to infrastructure, Council is well aware of the issue of aging, which is not unique to Lake Country but is common to all Canadian municipalities but safety is paramount for our community. So called 'Active Transportation Hot Spots' will be on top of the agenda, such as Lodge Road and Davidson Road. Council will review the list staff has been working on for the last couple of years and prioritize them in order of urgency and funding criteria. We need no reminder that funds are tight and will be even tighter as we meander through a global economic crisis that still lingers on. The District has already been working on this in the last two years and seeing this again on Council's agenda is a good sign that we are going in the right direction.

With our Waste Water Plant at capacity, another priority is also the finalization of our Liquid Waste Management Plan and securing the Ministry of Environment and Interior Health 'go ahead' with the expansion of our septic facility and the ability to provide a long-term sustainable approach to liquid waste (another item from last term priority list).

Finally, Economic Development and the Town Centre are back on the top of the agenda. Focus on a strategy, possible incentives and an understanding of market dynamics will help to successfully accomplish the economic rebound that our community needs, especially in view of the fact that almost 90% of our tax base is from residential properties.

As we work on finalizing these priorities, the Corporate Business Plan will be prepared accordingly and the budget submitted on the basis of these priorities. We will continue to communicate to the public through our social media and the traditional press and we are thankful to our local newspapers for the support they provide in communicating these important issues to the community.

Lake Country is truly moving forward.


Friday, November 25, 2011

There Is More Than Meets the Eye

With a new Council and the highest election turnout in Lake Country's history of local government elections, interest in what we do and how we do it has increased. I am very pleased about this, because one of the biggest issues we face at the local level is apathy for municipal government. I love my job and I have passion for what I do and the community I serve and live in. In addition, as a local government administrator I deal with a very complex field and a wide variety of issues: from road construction and maintenance, to parks amenities and recreation centres; from water quality and conservation, to saving lives and properties; and the list goes on. In addition, as the Chief Administrative Officer of a municipal corporation I have the blessing (or for some the curse) of two main responsibilities: first to advise Council to the best of my ability on the options they have in order to make an informed decision; and second, to carry out those decisions with the assistance of staff. It takes an entire organization to do that.

In my life experience, I have worked in many jobs. I sold computers, I reported for newspapers, I served in the military, I practised law, I consulted private corporations on management and business plans, I taught, and finally I worked (and work) in local government. I believe that my variety of experiences has provided me with good common sense and decent business practices. I have to say that, in all honesty, working for local government is not for the faint of heart. You have to keep motivated all the time and you have to fight constant misinformation on what staff do and how we are organized and operate. Notwithstanding all that, my job is a constant inspiration to me and to the majority of our staff. I remember a few years ago I hired a new Director of Finance for a municipality from the private sector. She had never worked in local government but she was the best fit for the job and I was right. She did a wonderful job and she earned the respect of many colleagues who have never worked in the private sector. She used to tell me that she had never been so busy in her entire career. Indeed her job with that municipality was very demanding on her. Just a couple of years ago she left that local government and is now working for a progressive, rapid growing private company expanding its business throughout BC and Alberta. In fact, she has become a partner in the company. One day we were having a conversation about differences in work environments and she said to me: "I never thought working in local government would be so hard, busy and demanding. Compared to the work I did in private corporations, some of them very big, local government is the most challenging and demanding." I believe so too.

Lake Country as a community will face hard times and the new Council will have to meet new and old challenges, especially doing more for less. So, if working in a municipality was busy and demanding in the past, it is even more so today. In thinking of these challenges, may I suggest that it is our responsibility, collectively, individually and in all of our respective roles to do the following:
  1. Be informed. Get to know your local government by approaching staff and asking questions on how things work and what we do. Try to understand the demands of your community and how we are trying to meet them. Finally, approach your elected officials and ask them good questions about the goals and objectives of your municipality.
  2. Be connected. In a society where social networks are the norm of communication now, the District has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a You Tube account. Subscribe and keep informed on what's happening in your community. Our Parks & Recreation department also has a Facebook page. Visit our new beautiful website at www.okanaganway.ca and the information in it. You will find useful stuff that will help you explore our community in more depth.
  3. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Your feedback is important to us and we understand that sometimes you can be frustrated by the bureaucracy imposed by the many laws that regulate us. Sometimes even staff scratch their heads at some of the legislation they have to deal with. The reality is that local governments have a very limited autonomy and it all comes from the provincial government. They pretty much decide what we do and how we do it. In addition, they are downloading more and more responsibilities to local governments without giving them the resources to do it. It is as frustrating for us as it is for you.
  4. Be positive. Recently, I received an e-mail from one of my staff who also has had a long experience in the private sector. In a nutshell, he was concerned at the tone of some election campaigning, not just in Lake Country but everywhere else in BC. He commented: "... I've been thinking a bit about working in local government lately, with the election coming and some candidates, journalists, and forum respondents passing various types of comments about municipal staff being lazy, incompetent, etc. While I know it is a common misconception for people to think that public servants are lazy, incompetent, etc. due to the bureaucracy, it concerns me how advocating and voicing these misconceptions can affect the entire organization [and the community] in the long term… I don't believe they consider how attacking the reputation of the municipality has many unintended impacts. .. I'm sure these claims do not help how employees see themselves. Worse yet, they will no doubt affect our ability to attract the bright talent that we need to develop and improve as an organization, or to retain the talent that we have already. I believe that while we do have areas to improve upon as an organization, we have taken many steps lately to get better and we have many highly qualified and talented professionals working [in local government]. As someone who has worked in the private sector and in various municipalities, and is committed to working in the local government field, I find it troubling that public service … seems to be valued less [than other services]."
Staff are here to help and are committed to provide the best service to the public and the community. I know that, like all organizations, there is always room for improvement and we are working hard on making those improvements happen. The majority of our staff are local taxpayers and care for the community as they care for their family's and individual quality of life. Also those who don't live in our community are caring individuals that take pride in what they do. Give us the benefit of the doubt. There is much more to local government operations than meets the eye.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Future is Now

The municipal election is over and the dust is settling. In Lake Country, the Mayor, James Baker, was re-elected and so two of the incumbent councillors, Penny Gambell (at Large) and Barbara Leamont (Carr's Landing). We also have four new councillors: Jamie McEwan (at Large), Rob Geier (Winfield), Owen Dickie (Oyama), and Lisa Cameron (Okanagan Centre). I congratulate the new elected Council and I am looking forward to the new term with them. I also wish to thank those who were not elected for their dedication and hard work. Each one of them brought a unique set of skills that provided good leadership and vision for the community.

What now? I would say: the future is now. There is much that needs to be done and the new Council will begin working immediately to understand their role, their function, and their responsibilities and to set the priorities for the next three years. On December 6th, the new Council will be sworn in and a number of orientation sessions will be held beginning next week. We will also hold a priority setting session at the beginning of December and an initial budget session. We do not waste our time at the District but we work hard to get things going.

One of the things we are working on is a business systems review with the purpose of streamlining our organization and operations and alleviate potential tax increases in the future. In addition, there are critical capital projects and plans that need to continue to be pursued. We have not heard from the province yet regarding our grant submission for the expansion of our sewer plant. The Regional District is contributing to the project but we cannot proceed without the bulk of the funds that could come only through a grant. Lodge Road design is near completion and we should be able to start the work in the spring of 2012. This is a much needed improvement that will benefit both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, especially the many students that walk that road during the school year. The province will contribute to the funding of the project and we made an application to ICBC for some money as well. The Water Master Plan will be discussed as part of the budget process as the model calls for fee increases in the next two years.

Then there is some important stuff that will need to be addressed. Boundary readjustments with the City of Kelowna and possibly more collaboration at the political and administrative levels between the City and the District; increase partnership opportunities with the Okanagan Indian Band through the provision of services and the implementation of economic and tourism development projects; and of course our Town Centre and the District economic development strategy.

On top of all of this, there are many other projects that are in progress and there is the day-to-day operational load. It is good to be busy and we welcome opportunities. Definitely, we will not be idle and the new Council will begin its work at a rapid pace. Again, the future is now for Lake Country.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lake Country Endorses Progressive Plan to Reduce Municipal Carbon Footprint

Lake Country, BC – In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of their municipal operations and meet the terms of the provincial Climate Action Charter, the District of Lake Country Council recently developed and endorsed a new Carbon Neutral Operations Plan. Lake Country signed the province’s Climate Action Charter in 2007, requiring them to become carbon neutral in their municipal operations by the end of 2012.

By reducing or offsetting their municipal carbon emissions, Lake Country intends to provide an example of how municipal carbon neutrality can become a reality, and by doing the right thing can also position themselves for continued senior government grants. “This plan has allowed us to inventory all aspects of the municipal operation over time, identify cost saving areas and historic trends, as well as narrow in on those facilities needing the most attention” says Mayor, James Baker.

Development Services Manager, Mark Koch, explains that “the different energy sources used by the municipality over the past three years were tabulated, and converted into tons of carbon equivalent, allowing the municipality to understand the true carbon footprint of the District’s water system, sewer infrastructure, arena, works facilities as well as other District functions”. While not tying the District to any one solution, the plan provides a framework for future green technology investment decisions to be made in the most impactful areas, favoring local reduction solutions over offsetting, where possible.

While the District believes that reducing their consumption of electricity, gasoline, natural gas, and all other fuel sources simply makes good business sense, they also plan on using revenue from the award winning Lake Country Hydroelectric Generating Station to help offset costs associated with becoming carbon neutral.  

For more information, contact:
Mark Koch, Development Services Manager

Alberto De Feo, Chief Administrative Officer

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 1st Council Meeting Highlights

Due to the upcoming election, Regular Council meetings will not be televised on Shaw Cable until after the General Voting Day on November 19th. In addition, there will be no Public Comment or Councillor Comment periods during Regular Council meetings until after the Election.

Lodge Pine Estates Bylaw 675, 2008
Bylaw 675 rezones a narrow strip of land from Rural Residential to Direct Control and Park to construct 4 duplexes has been on the District’s books for several years because of outstanding issues.  The applicant has dedicated the required park land to the District and Council gave final reading and adopted the bylaw.

Carbon Neutral Operations Plan
In 2010 the District signed the Climate Action Charter and made a commitment, along with all BC municipalities, to achieve operational carbon neutrality by 2012.  Staff presented an operational plan to inventory District emissions and establish broad principles for reductions opportunities. The inventory will help calculate carbon-offsets that may be needed to achieve carbon neutrality but does not commit the District to anything. The emissions inventory will be reviewed and updated annually to provide up-to-date information on the amount of carbon being emitted by the District. See the complete Carbon Neutral Operations Plan that was endorsed by Council.

Shanks Road Development Variance Permit
Council approved the application to vary the floor area of a number of accessory buildings at 8051 Shanks Road from 100m2 to 460m2.  The applicants would like to build a new residence on a farm property and convert the old residence into a storage building.  The total floor area of the old residence and a variety of storage buildings on the property used for farming purposes exceeds the total allowable floor area for accessory buildings on property zoned Agriculture 1 which does not have farm assessment.  The approval of DVP2011-009 will allow the applicant to build a new single family dwelling and keep the existing accessory buildings for storage and farm use.

Whiskey Cove Road Development Variance Permit
The applicant applied for a variance to construct a new pool and outdoor lounge area on the property at 15510 Whiskey Cove Road.  The proposed plan requires a variance of the sight line and north and south side yard setbacks.  Staff recommended that the variance not be supported as there are opportunities for the plans to be modified to eliminate the need for both the side yard setback variances and the sightlines variance.  After a lengthy discussion Council approved the applicant’s request to vary the site line requirements and the south side yard setback although denied the request to vary the north side yard setback.

McCreight Road Development Variance Permit
The applicant for the property at 13210 McCreight Road applied to vary the sight line requirements from 120 degrees to 80 degrees to remove the exiting dwelling and construct a new single family dwelling with a pool and outdoor living area facing the lake.  Council approved the Development Variance Permit DVP2011-013 as the existing views from the neighbouring properties are skewed to the south and will not be significantly impacted.

Sawmill Road Development Variance Permit
Kon Kast Holdings Ltd. applied to relax the requirements of the District’s Subdivision and Development Servicing Bylaw in order to construct a 36,600 sq. ft concrete production and casting facility at 15670 Sawmill Road.  The servicing standards require sidewalks, curbs and gutter, community sewer, underground wiring and street lighting.   Staff recommended approval of the variance as none of the surrounding properties have urban services and the economic development value of the development will expand the community’s industrial base.  The applicant will be required to provide full water service and roadway improvements along Sawmill Road in order to accommodate anticipated loads.  Council approved the variance adding the requirement that a buffer be installed to shelter the neighbouring properties and also that additional lighting be installed on the existing hydro poles along Sawmill Road.

MTI & Bylaw Enforcement Amendment Bylaws
Due to a minor error the current MTI and Bylaw Enforcement bylaws do not cite the correct sections of the new Building Regulation Bylaw 709, 2011. Council gave 3 readings to Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw 805, 2011 and Municipal Ticketing Information Amendment Bylaw 804, 2011 so that the bylaws accurately cite the relevant sections of the municipal bylaws that the ticket is issued under.

Padel Licence of Occupation at Jack Seaton Park
There are two PADEL courts set up in Lake Country on the old tennis courts with a third one being planned. Mr. Thorburn operates the PADEL courts and since the sport began in Lake Country, has run camps, junior programs and ladies programs, all of which have met with great success. PADEL supports the District’s drive to increase physical activity for Lake Country citizens and Mr. Thorburn has already invested in the development of the site such as walls, fixing cracked areas of the old tennis courts and the re‐anchoring of the nets. The proposed Licence of Occupation to operate the courts at Jack Seaton Park will require the maintenance of the area, an annual fee of $500 and appropriate liability insurance. There has been great enthusiasm from the community for the sport which was showcased by CHBC and there has also been some early discussions about an interprovincial tournament that could be held in Lake Country next year. Council approved the Licence of Occupation for the period of June 2011 to December 2015.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Is there Anything Happening in Lake Country? Part 3

This week I would like to continue the story of what’s happening in Lake Country with more details on infrastructure, water and the Parks and Recreation Department.  If you have read Alberto’s blogs then you are familiar with his story of the grasshopper and the ant where the grasshopper spends all summer with his feet up, relaxing while the ants run around preparing for the long, chilly winter ahead.  Of course we all know that the District’s infrastructure is vital to the wellbeing of our citizens and businesses. But did you know that much of our infrastructure will be reaching the end of its useful life over the next few decades?  The District has prepared a 20 year plan called the Integrated Asset Management Capital Plan (IAMCP), which is a really long name for a plan that tells us what needs to be replaced, when it needs to be replaced and how much it’s going to cost. The IAMCP is the District being ants. Not only are we going to be prepared for when the time comes, we are already working like little ants to get ready for the long winter ahead. Some of the things already underway are:
·         The Liquid Waste Management Plan, which is being updated with the Ministry of Environment, gives us a 20 year plan for how we collect and manage liquid waste. It is being done at the same time as the predesign for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Phase 3 Expansion to make sure we are continuing to move forward with our plans.

·         The $5 million Kal Lake Interconnect project will give us the ability to put Kal Lake Water into the Oyama Lake water source giving us more options, and more water, in times of drought and during peak seasons. It will include 1 new reservoir, a new pump station, new pipelines (already done!) and ultraviolet disinfection capabilities.

·         I’m hoping everyone has heard of our Water Master Plan project? We have done mail outs, held information sessions and done presentations to as many committees (both internal and external) that we could get to. The Water Master Plan final documents will be presented to Council in early 2012 and then water rates will be discussed by the new Council during budget time.

And where do we even begin with the Parks and Recreation Department, which is now called the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department. Their list of Capital Projects goes on for an entire page! Just look at all the great amenities we have in Lake Country: tennis courts, the Trethewey Splash Park, Padel courts and some of the most beautiful and sought after soccer fields in the entire Okanagan. 

This year the Lakes Resident Association and the District joined forces to build the Apex Drive Park project. The Association provided free pizza and masses of people (ok maybe not masses but definitely swarms) came out to help build this wonderful asset to the community.
The Winfield Recreation Centre is continuing along its expansion phases which saw new dressing rooms and door upgrades last year with refrigeration, compressors, dehumidifier upgrades and a lighting retrofit in 2011.  Not only did the lighting upgrades help us reduce our carbon footprint by replacing 35 year old light fixtures with a new, high efficiency system, we were also able to install some groovy lights that make the winter DJ skates a huge hit! Check out this video from the first skate event using the new system.

The Parks, Recreation and Culture Department also made the move of bringing contracted services in-house this year which has turned out to be a huge advantage.  Services have improved significantly with no budget impact, the parks staff are highly skilled and have the specific knowledge, equipment and training to get at the problem, get it fixed and do it quickly.

This was also the first year that Lake Country got involved in the Communities in Bloom Project with Kelowna offering to mentor us for the first go around. Everyone in Lake Country dashed around cleaning, planting and making our already beautiful community shine. On July 20th the judges arrived and were loaded into a bus for the grand tour. And do you know what they saw? Shiny, happy people… …everywhere! A family was enjoying a beautiful afternoon at Kopje Park, the Lake Country Boys and Girls Club had the kids on a field trip at the Swalwell Park, there was a tournament being held at the tennis courts, a group of people from the Connect Brain Injury Clinic were visiting the Community Gardens, Padel was in full swing, the soccer fields were full and kids were enjoying the playground at Jack Seaton Park. Not only were the judges impressed but staff were moved by what they saw.  Sometimes just stepping back to see and appreciate what we already have in our wonderful little Lake Country can inspire us in moving forward and making it even better.

The Parks projects may be ones that are most visible in the community but there are so many other things going on behind the scenes (and under the ground) in the District.  All these projects, and the dedicated staff that are working on them, are so vitally important to the growth, sustainability and health of our community.  We are planning and working for the future so we can continue to live Life…the Okanagan Way.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reduce and Simplify

The District of Lake Country has experienced rapid growth in recent years and it also depends heavily on its residents rather than local businesses and industry for its tax revenues. It just makes sense, then, that the District operates effectively (doing the right things), efficiently (doing things right) and economically (operating at least cost). Current economic conditions are not conducive to much growth and real estate business has been flat for a while now. For these reasons, our taxpayers will be hard pressed to foot a high tax increase or one at all. In order to find the budget efficiencies we need to balance our budget by keeping our levels of service the same without any substantial tax increase, we have initiated an organizational review and I wish to provide some information on the scope and work-plan of this project.

The scope of this review is to examine all District services and contracts with the exception of the fire department and police service  (we just completed a fire department strategic plan and the RCMP is not under our direct jurisdiction). In addition, we have identified the following three objectives that the review will focus on:
  • Examine the organization structure to determine if it can be more effective and efficient;
  • Identify opportunities to reduce, prevent, control and recover operating costs; and
  • Coach District leaders in improving municipal administration and operations.
There will be an initial information gathering phase where we are going to: a) define role, responsibilities, accountabilities, concerns and ideas for improvement; and b) review financial statements, budget, OCP and other municipal reports and statistics. The second phase will be to identify key business processes in the District, such as issuing development permits, building inspections, bylaw enforcement, tax billing and collections, recreation planning, and economic development, to cite a few. During this phase we will also asses three key business processes to identify improvements and cost reduction opportunities by reviewing resource requirements, cycle times, reporting, service levels, and customer satisfaction.  Then we will apply core service review criteria to the major District services and compare District's operations and costs to other municipalities, we will identify opportunities for improving costs, and we will develop and assess opportunities to improve the organization structure and accountabilities.

The information gathering has already started and, except for a brief break for Christmas, we will continue this review with the hope to provide initial recommendations to Council for budget purposes sometime in December.  A final report is expected to be submitted to Council in February 2012. Due to the aggressive timeline we have set out to meet, we will need the assistance of a consultant. The person who will do this review for us is Dugal Smith, a management consultant for 37 years who spent 14 years as a partner with Price Waterhouse.

Thank you very much for your support on this and if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me in writing at administrator@lakecountry.bc.ca


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What’s on the Agenda Tonight? Only three Council Meetings before the Election

We have another Council meeting this evening. After this one, there will be only two more left for this Council due to the municipal election on November 19th.  Let's take a peak of what's on the agenda for tonight.

At the last Council meeting, Councillor Gambell tabled a Notice of Motion requesting that we do more improvement work on Bond road following the improvements we have made don Davidson road. In addition, Councillor Gambell would like to widen the road stretch at the westbound stop intersection of Davidson and Bond as some concern was expressed on the new design of that intersection. She would like also this work to be done now for safety reasons. As this is a budget issue ($25,000 will be needed to do this), there will be some discussion at the Council table about the motion. The issue of safety was addressed in a report from Greg Buchholz, which is on the agenda. The design and work was done by expert engineers and workers and it was checked by ICBC for safety. Staff has been assured that the work has increased the safety of the intersection but residents feel otherwise. So this evening, Council will attempt to find a solution.

  1. We are still looking for volunteers for our committees. We know that it is difficult to give precious time to the community when economic times are so tough, but we hope to have a good number to get these committees going. 
  2. The semi-annual water bills are due on October 31st.
  3. This week (October 17th – 23rd) is Waste Reduction Week. Please be conscious of waste reduction efforts at home and at work and recycle all that you can. It's important to our quality of life.
  4. British Columbia Youth Parliament is seeking for applicants. If you know of a young man or woman that are interested in politics and in learning how our political system works, please talk to them about this great opportunity. Applications are found at www.bcyp.org
  5. Finally, if you are going to be out of town on Municipal Election day (Saturday, November 19th) or have made other plans to enjoy that weekend, you can vote on November 9th and November 15th at the Municipal Hall between 8am and 8pm. Don't be shy and come out to vote.
The rezoning bylaw (Royston) for the property on Chase road, which is somewhat a continuation to the South of the Sage Glen subdivision, is going to Council for final adoption. It could have been approved at the last meeting two weeks ago, but Council had requested more information about water availability to both the new development and the farm properties in the area. The answer is that there is enough water and more for that area and that response was provided to Council.

A request for a Temporary Permit to store heavy equipment on a property on Chase road against zoning regulations is again on the agenda.  Staff has recommended Council to deny the request after Council had asked that the property owner be given an opportunity to comply with regulations and address other zoning issues to no avail.

In order to correct some minor errors, the Lakestone property will have to go through a 'cosmetic' amendment (if I can define it that way). Because there is absolutely no change in the purpose and scope of the development, staff have requested Council to waive the Public Hearing requirements.

We have a delegation from the Open Air Performances. Carmelo Scarpino (a nice Italian fellow J) will provide Council with the highlights and review of the 2011 season, which went very, very well.

A couple of Bylaw Enforcement matters: a house on 4410 McCoubrey road did not pass the final inspection so Council will be asked that we place a Notice on Title on the property. A garage was built but no inspections were completed at 15611 Roberts Road. In addition, there are setback problems and the property owner has not provided the required documentation. Also in this case, Council will be asked to place a Notice on Title.

The Finance Department is recommending Council to approve a grant-in-aid to the Lake Country Food Assistance Society in order to waive the rent of the Creekside Theatre for the Society's Christmas Musical Fundraiser event, which will be held on December 10th.

Finally, the Fire Prevention Bylaw is on the agenda for final adoption.

The Public Comment period and the Council Questions and Answers period will be taken off the agenda as of tonight and until after the election to guarantee a fair election process (in other words, one can't campaign by using a public meeting).

Reyna will provide you with the outcome of the meeting

Friday, October 14, 2011

Is there Anything Happening in Lake Country? Part 2

This week's contributor is Reyna Seabrook, the District's Executive Assistant and Communication Officer. There are also two pictures of the proposed design for Lodge Road. If you click on the picture you will be able to enlarge it to see some of the details.


"A few weeks ago Alberto gave an update on what's happening in Lake Country. He spoke about economic development, branding, Town Centre development and other achievements that are not only putting Lake Country on the map, but creating a strong, sustainable and vibrant community.


So what else has been going on in Lake Country? I thought about listing all of our capital projects, but by the time I got to page 4, I started to think about how much room I actually have in this article. Needless to say, there are many (all listed in the 2011 budget) and we are working on all of them.


One big change the District made this year, which is turning out to be a huge success, was the decision to bring some of our roads contracts in-house. You may have seen Gary and Al around the community doing all sorts of jobs from painting to picking up garbage, talking to people in the community, responding to calls for drainage issues and animal pick-up. The switch to in-house has allowed us to be more proactive with our maintenance programs resulting in less weather related problems and has also improved service call response time exponentially. Gary and Al are both long-time residents of Lake Country and like many residents they are proud to live here and want to see this community look its best.


Have you ever heard someone say "Lake Country is a great place to live – but not always the easiest place to get around?" I can see you nodding your head, and we are nodding along with you. One of our top capital priorities is the Integrated Transportation Framework; a project that looks at all modes of transportation in Lake Country, not just vehicle traffic. It promotes liveability and health, connects neighbourhoods to schools and parks, includes multi-modal transportation options for transit and accessibly and makes transportation convenient, easy to use and barrier free.


So how are we going to do this? Let's go back to our Capital projects list and talk about a couple of more projects that fit into the Integrated Transportation Framework. First up, Lodge Road: We all know how many people use Lodge Road, especially the kids walking to GESS, and we all know that something needs to be done to improve this area. The Lodge Road Transportation Corridor design is well underway with pre-design and preliminary cost estimates already completed. The Lodge Road Project will be going out to tender in early 2012 and construction is planned to begin in the summer of 2012. Some of the highlights of the project include:
  • a round-about at Lodge and Bottom Wood Lake Road intersection
  • 3.5 metre travel lanes and a 1.5 metre bike lanes
  • 2 metre sidewalk – separated from the roadway with a bio-swale* to control and treat Stormwater drainage prior to entering Vernon Creek (ps if you are thinking "what the heck is a bio-swale?" don't worry, I asked the same question. Basically it's a section of gently sloped land with native plants and vegetation separating the road from the pathway to control runoff water.)
  • Pedestrian Bridge at Vernon Creek
  • LED Street Lighting & landscape trees

The Davidson Road Project was another capital project identified as an area that needed improvements to both infrastructure and safety. The approximately 450 metre asphalt curb and pathway was done in a completely cost-effective manner with all the engineering standards being met or exceeded. The pathway was also completed in time for the students returning to school.
We definitely have to acknowledge one of our biggest partners in helping us work towards achieving our goal of integrated transportation in Lake Country. The Walk Around Lake Country, or WALC as they are known, volunteers are un-ending in their devotion to this community. They are helping the District identify the top pedestrian active transportation linkages and working with us to integrate them into the Integrated Transportation Framework plan.


Other projects that you may have noticed around the community:
  • In response to meeting and working with the group GESS Student group, Teens 4 Change, a 30 km/hr school zone was put in in front of the school along with an additional crosswalk to increase student safety.
  • In response to a petition received from residents in the Lakes subdivision about the speed of traffic on Lake Hill Drive, traffic calming devices were installed at the Shoreline intersection and rumble strips were placed at the Oceola intersection. Next year we will also be putting in a crosswalk at Oceola and Lake Hill Drive.
  • Middle Bench Road was renewed and the drainage was improved.
  • We received a beautification grant from BC Hydro to remove the power poles along Main Street and Bottom Wood Lake Road which also helps improve site line visibility in the school zone.
  • To help improve transit we installed 7 brand new bus shelters complete with solar lighting.


These projects are just the starting points to an idea of creating a living community with vibrant and environmentally friendly networks…and just think how sweet it will be to hear …. "Lake Country is so easy and enjoyable to get around while being safe at the same time!"


Reyna Seabrook"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October 4th Council Meeting Highlights

Zoning Amendment (Royston) Bylaw 795, 2011
The Royston Zoning Amendment Bylaw proposes to rezone the property at 9614 Chase Road from single family to duplex. After a discussion and a request for additional information from staff on the water supply to the property, Council gave Bylaw 795 third reading.

Zoning Amendment (Russo) Bylaw 784, 2011
The Russo Zoning Amendment Bylaw proposes to re-zone 8 large rural lots along Oyama Road and was met with some controversy at the Public Hearing on June 7th. Residents expressed concern about the subdivided property sizes and sufficient ground water in the area. The bylaw had been referred back to staff to consider a reduction in density and a site specific zone of Rural Large Parcel Oyama Road which would allow limited subdivision while maintaining the OCP vision of a rural area.  The amended bylaw reduces the number of lots on the northernmost properties by 3. Council had a lengthy discussion about the water availability on the properties and the effect that subdividing would have on the surrounding properties.  Council’s motion to send the bylaw back to a public hearing was defeated and a second motion giving the bylaw 3rd reading subject to receiving a hydrogeological report that meets the satisfaction of the Approving Officer prior to 4th reading, was passed.

Development Variance Permit 12976 East Ridge Ct.
The applicant received a Building Permit authorizing the construction of a single family dwelling unit at 12976 East Ridge Court. The structure was located within the rear‐yard setback of the property. The applicant built the home as per the plans and a variance permit is now required to authorize the encroachment into the setback before final occupancy can be issued. Council approved Development Variance Permit 2010-010 relaxing the rear yard setback from 6 to 3.7 m.

Subdivision Application 15042 Oyama Road
A portion of Oyama Road crosses private property located at 15042 Oyama Road and the owner of the property suggested swapping a laneway located along the rear side of the property for the trespassing roadway.  The laneway is also owned by the District and Council supported staff’s recommendation in rejecting the proposed application on the basis that the travelled portion of Oyama Road is protected under the Provincial Transportation Act. If the land swap was approved the District would be trading its own land (the laneway) for land that the District has control of by way of provincial legislation.

Corporate Business Systems Review
In view of the unfortunate threat of another recession being more real than ever and in order to alleviate possible tax increases in the 2012 budget the Chief Administrator Officer requested that Council initiate a Business Systems Review with the intent of finding efficiencies within the budget. It was suggested that Council contemplate a conservative financial plan and find efficiencies within the current and future budget to minimize tax and fee increases to the maximum extent possible while trying to minimize the effect on current services. The assistance of an external, experienced professional is necessary to provide an unbiased approach to the methodology and Council authorized staff to proceed with the Business Systems Review allocating $30,000 from prior years’ general fund accumulated surplus for this project which will be completed in time for budget deliberations.

Letter of Support for the Okanagan Indian Band
The Okanagan Indian Band is submitting a proposal to the BC Capacity Initiative to assist in its land‐use planning goals and requested a letter of support from the District Country to include with their proposal. The BC Capacity Initiative is a federal initiative committed to “supporting First Nations to enhance their capacity to prepare for consultation, negotiation, implementation or management of land and resources components of current or future aboriginal title settlement agreements”. Council was happy to assist the application by providing a letter of support.

Fire Prevention Bylaw
The District’s previous Fire Prevention Bylaw was adopted shortly after incorporation and as the District has evolved it has become evident that the fire department requires prevention language in the bylaw to address specific concerns within the community considering the department’s staffing and resource capabilities. Besides providing updated language, the proposed Fire Prevention Bylaw 800, 2011 will adopt the BC Fire Code, relocate the Regional District of the Central Okanagan’s Fireworks Bylaw into the Lake Country bylaw and be linked to the MTI and Adjudicated ticketing process for enforcement purposes. The bylaw revision was one of the fire department’s 2011 strategic objectives and Council gave 3 readings to Fire Prevention Bylaw 800, 2011, Bylaw Notice Enforcement Amendment Bylaw 801, 2011 and Municipal Ticketing Information Amendment Bylaw 802, 2011

Davidson Road Pathway
Councillor Gambell provided a Notice of Motion for discussion by Council requesting that $25,000 from prior years’ general fund accumulated surplus be allocated to continue the pedestrian pathway northwards up Bond Road and to straighten the pathway section at the intersection of Davidson and Bond Roads and that the work be completed in the Fall of 2011.  Staff will provide a report on the Notice of Motion for the next Council meeting.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Council Meeting News


We are still looking for volunteers for our committees as several positions are available because terms have expired. It is difficult to find people that wish to give free time when there is so much economic turmoil nowadays.  We are also reminding people that Nomination Packages are available for the upcoming Municipal Election. I believe one aspiring candidate has filed with Hazel this morning.  We are also informing the public that water bills have been mailed and payments are due on October 31. Finally it's going to be Waste Reduction Week the week of October 17.


We are asking Council to approve a Development Variance Permit to relax the rear yard property setback for a home at the Lakes (12976 East Ridge Court). In this case, DLC incorrectly issued the permit for the structure so we are fixing the problem. We are also proposing adoption of rezoning of the property immediately south of the Sage Glen subdivision on Chase Road to allow the construction of attainable housing (mostly duplexes) on the property. We will then deal with a request to swap land with the District with the intent to close a  laneway on Oyama Road.  In reality we already own the road under provincial legislation so we are asking Council to reject the proposal. Finally, Council will deal with the proposed rezoning of large portions of land in Oyama to create 21 lots and subdivide them for future development. The owners wish to do this mostly to ensure that family members can have portions of their lands and live there, however there are concerns from the public on density and especially on servicing. It will be an item of great discussion around the Council table. In fact it will be the highlight of the evening.


In view of the recession and in order to alleviate possible tax increases in the 2012 budget, I am asking Council to initiate a Business Systems Review with the intent to find efficiencies within the budget. I am concerned that a tax increase would be too much at this time for our residents, especially those who have lived here for a long time and have very little disposable income.  I hope to have this completed as part of the budget process.


The Fire Department is proposing a new Fire Prevention Bylaw and coordination with our Bylaw Enforcement Ticketing bylaw (Municipal Ticketing Information Bylaw).  There is a lot of effort from staff to put together this bylaw and more coordination will be needed to complete it before final adoption.


The last item on the agenda is a Notice of Motion from Councillor Gambell which reads:

That Council allocate funds of up to $25,000 from prior years' general fund accumulated surplus to continue the pedestrian pathway northwards up Bond Road and to straighten the pathway section at the intersection of Davidson and Bond Roads;

And that the work be completed in the Fall of 2011

A number of residents, although pleased with Council's action to complete improvements to Davidson Road, have expressed the desire to further improve the safety features at Bond and Davidson and I believe this motions is trying to address those requests.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lake Country Discusses Water, Infrastructure Management and Active Living with Provincial Ministries

The District of Lake Country Council had another busy and productive day at UBCM in Vancouver.

In a meeting with the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Ida Chong, Council discussed the need for infrastructure grants as the issue of maintenance and replacement of water, sewer and roads is becoming urgent in the community. The Minister assured Council that if the Federal Government initiates new infrastructure programs the Province will match their contribution and support the programs. The UBCM Gas Tax fund is currently still available to municipalities and the District has submitted an application to fund the upgrade and expansion of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is almost at full capacity. The Wastewater Treatment Plant project is also sponsored by the Regional District of the Central Okanagan as the plant also functions as the regional septic facility.

Council also talked about the need for a new Active Living Grant Program with Minister Chong, who noted that past programs such as the Senior Parks Equipment program were initiated by the Province. Notwithstanding the fact that there are no current programs available, the Minister encouraged Council to write a letter requesting that the Province consider creating new Active Living opportunities, especially in view of the aging population.

Following the meeting with Minister Chong, Council met with the Minister of Health, Mike De Jong, to address issues of water infrastructure and coordination of water standards throughout the Province. The Minister acknowledged the need for coordination of departments at the provincial level in dealing with water policy and issues and reiterated that grant programs could only be available through federal initiatives. He added that his ministry is willing to work with the District to find solutions that can be effective and less costly in order to provide the best options for all residents.

“It was a very positive day” said Mayor Baker, “we felt that progress was made, especially with respect to the implementation of our Water Master Plan, which, without the assistance of the Province, cannot be fully sustainable.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lake Country Council Brings Municipal Issues to the Attention of the Provincial Government

The District of Lake Country Council is in Vancouver along with all BC local governments to participate to the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention.  In addition to the Annual General Meeting and policy sessions where various motions are discussed and adopted for advancement to the Provincial Government, Mayors and Councils meet with ministers in order to solve local issues on which the provincial government has authority. On Tuesday Lake Country Council met with two ministers and the Premier and participated in a number of workshops and policy sessions of interest to the community.

 The first meeting was with Minister Mary Polak, Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation. Council discussed Lake Country and the Okanagan Indian Band concerns for the protection of water sources on crown land and also requested further assurance that lease lots not be sold to private individuals, as announced by Minister Bell last year. Minister Polak reiterated that lease lots will not be sold and congratulated Council for its exemplary and successful relationship with the Okanagan Indian Band.

Council met with Premier Clark to discuss the proposed Municipal Auditor General and also the District’s recommendation to create only one department for water affairs as there are currently at least four different ministries with conflicting views on management and protection of water resources. Minister of Environment Terry Lake, who was at the meeting with the Premier, confirmed that the government is already looking at options realizing that the complexity of water service delivery requires proper attention. Minister Lake also offered to meet with Mayor and Council to further discuss their proposal.

 Finally, Council met with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom to follow up on the future maintenance and use of the current Highway 97 corridor along Wood Lake once the four laning project is completed in 2013.  Both the Minister and the District acknowledged the value of the new highway stretch under construction and the old corridor, which will be devolved to the municipality once the new highway section is in operation.  Minister Lekstrom will request that his staff work with the District to finalize the terms of the transition of the old corridor from the Province to the municipality.

 “So far, this has been another successful UBCM convention” said Mayor Baker, “I feel that our concerns are being taken seriously and that our collaborative approach is paying off.  I also wish to acknowledge the hard work of MLA Norm Letnick who is always a strong advocate for our community and has the ear of Cabinet members.”

On Monday evening the District was recognized by Clean Energy BC for its Hydroelectric Generating Station and received the ‘Project of the Year’ Award. The City of Surrey was also recognized as the Clean Energy Community of the Year for its efforts in planning for green energy.

On Wednesday Council will meet with the Minister of Community, Sport & Cultural Development, Ida Chong and the Minister of Health, Mike De Jong.  On the same day Lake Country will be also showcased for its proactive approach to asset management.

Neighbouring Cities Bloom Under Mentoring Program

Community participation and the use of public art have won the District of Lake Country its first award at the provincial Communities in Bloom Awards Ceremony last week. The City of Kelowna also received recognition for mentoring the District through its debut into the international beautification program.

“Lake Country is such a beautiful and diverse place, filled with natural landscapes, tended fields, vibrant gardens and community art. We are so pleased to be recognized for the hard work and dedication of the community,” says Lake Country Councillor Noreen Guenther.

The annual Communities in Bloom program is a friendly competition that encourages municipalities to foster civic pride, environmental responsibility and beautification through local gardens, community programs and green spaces. Each year, members of the local community and city staff create a submission package highlighting the horticultural features of the community and tour judges around the area in August.

This year the neighbouring cities took their mentorship to a new level and partnered on a common presentation theme: Art & Agriculture.

“Being a seasoned Communities in Bloom participant, it’s been our pleasure to mentor a number of cities in the valley including Lake Country,” says Kelowna Communities in Bloom volunteer Suzanne Anderton. “We look forward to one day working together as a valley – from Armstrong to Osoyoos – promoting the Okanagan as a destination for horticultural tourism and setting the whole valley in bloom.”

Setting the stage for next year’s theme “Water”, the City of Kelowna was also awarded “Five Bloom” status for the un-H2O Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at the Mission Recreation Complex at this year’s provincial ceremony. Kelowna will host the annual Communities in Bloom Awards convention in 2012.

For more information on provincial Communities in Bloom program, see bccommunitiesinbloom.ca. For local program information, visit the Communities in Bloom pages on lakecountry.bc.ca or kelowna.ca.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is There Anything Happening in Lake Country? Part 1

I just realized that I have been with the District of Lake Country for 2 years now. Time goes by very fast when one is busy. And we have been very busy. Last night I met with Council to talk about accomplishments and to look at the future as well. It was a very good discussion and I wish to share some points with the Community.
The feeling around the room was that we have established a firm foundation for future Councils through the creation of a vision for Lake Country. By approving a Corporate Business Plan, Council endorsed three main general objectives for the Community:
  • Put Lake Country on the map or, in other words, create a strong identity and awareness of our Community throughout BC and the rest of Canada;
  • Make Lake Country the best place to live in BC by creating a sustainable and vibrant Community;
  • Make the District the best place to work by creating an organization that is trusted and respected by Council and the Community.
These are not easy tasks to accomplish but we have strived to fulfill Council's vision and to assist our local government in moving forward on important issues and projects. As a resident of Lake Country, I too, with my family, desire the best for us and our family and I believe that Lake Country definitely fits the bill. In April we moved in the new Sage Glen subdivision on Chase Road and a couple of nights ago we, together with the other residents, celebrated our new life in an area that not only provides affordable housing but has been a successful attainable housing project thanks to the District's partnership with the Okanagan Foundation, whose purpose is helping a number of qualified families to purchase their first new home. It is all about building a Community.
Some of the things we have done are pretty self-explanatory. Let see what they are.
The two major Council priorities under 'Put Lake Country on the Map' are:
  • Community Branding; and
  • Town Centre Plan
In addition, Council identified Economic Development as a major focus.

The District has completed the Community Branding priority. As a result we now have:
  • A new Logo and Brand;
  • Recognition by Canada Post of Lake Country as a Community;
  • A new Community Portal (website);
  • Advertising in strategic publications targeted at visitors of our valley;
  • Creation of marketing material;
  • Social Media Network Participation;
  • New Banners in the Town Centre;
  • New Tourism Signs in strategic locations.
Obviously, these efforts cannot remain an isolated phenomenon and we will need to work further on marketing the Community. However, these efforts have helped so far in focusing on the other two priorities. With respect to the Town Centre, although there is still much to be done, which is mostly dependent on market conditions, progress has been made and can be summarized as follows:
  • Numerous meetings with the landowners have been held and continue to be held with Council and staff. This is providing the landowners with more confidence that there is support from the District;
  • Meetings have been and are still held with potential buyers/developers to discuss opportunities and options. Just recently we met with a corporate group that has a signed purchase agreement with one of the landowners on Main Street and they are now working on identifying needs and draft a concept for discussion with the District;
  • Council approved a Development Permit for the construction of a TD Bank. Work has begun and construction is progressing;
  • Council has given three readings to the McPhearson rezoning proposal on the south-east side of Main Street and is waiting for Ministry of Transportation approval.
In addition, Council and staff have been working in fostering further economic development and tourism. Some of the things that have happened are:
  • The creation of an Economic Planning & Development Committee, to provide advice to Council on economic development matters;
  • Meetings of staff with various developers to further plans for current land identified for growth under the OCP. Some of these meetings have moved to development applications such as the rezoning of the AMG site on Oceola Road (Turtle Bay Crossing Commercial development), the redevelopment of the Oyama Sawmill site (an application is forthcoming), the advancement of the McCoubrey Plateau Neighbourhood Plan study, whose final drafting should be ready for Council review in the next month or so, the Lakestone development, the Turtle Bay Campground, the rezoning of the Royston property on Chase Road for attainable housing just to cite a few;
  • The creation of a District Staff Economic Development Working Group, to move along economic development decisions;
  • Increased partnership with the Chamber of Commerce through a current review of the Visitor Information Centre services and direct participation to the Chamber Tourism Committee;
  • The creation of the Okanagan Indian Band and District Working Group, which meets monthly to discuss mutual economic development opportunities;
  • The creation of a District Staff Agriculture Economic Development Working Group, to further advance the District's Agricultural Plan and related economic growth opportunities.
All of this just in two years. But it is not all. Stay tuned for more information to come in the next few days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lake Country Showcased at NABOC

If you missed this news release from last week…

The District of Lake Country was showcased at the National Aboriginal Business Opportunity Conference (NABOC) in Osoyoos for its advanced branding and First Nations relations.

The new brand and website were portrayed as a successful business story of a local government reinventing itself and putting the community 'on the map'. Lake Country is becoming widely recognized for its individuality thanks to its marketing efforts, which are bringing more development opportunities in the community and its Town Centre, and its extensive social media network. The District's Facebook page, Blog, and Twitter, together with its new community portal, are creating awareness and a positive energy about the community.

In addition, Lake Country was recognized for its progressive leadership in its partnership relations with the Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB). The District and OKIB signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2005 and at the beginning of this year, the relationship was taken to a higher and more active level with the recognition by the District of OKIB traditional rights and the creation of an Action Working Group, with members from both governments, to tackle partnership opportunities, especially in the areas of economic development and community services. The Working Group meets monthly and is actively pursuing a number of ideas.

"We are very pleased with the progress our community has made in the last two years" Mayor Baker stated, "Notwithstanding the difficult economic environment, the District of Lake Country has shown proactive leadership in Economic Development and we are beginning to see the fruits our labours."

The District will be recognized for its Hydroelectric Generating Station project, which will bring revenue to the municipality, by Clean Energy BC at its annual conference in Vancouver on September 26th.

Community Input on Agri-tourism Accommodation

The District of Lake Country would like to invite residents to attend an open house on October 5, 2011 from 3pm to 7pm at the Municipal Hall. The purpose of the open house is to obtain public input to aid the District in developing possible policy amendments to better guide agri-tourism accommodation.  

Based on public feedback, the District has recently curtailed new Agri-tourism operations in the community while it undergoes a public consultation process. Council wishes to give the community and stakeholders time to participate in a meaningful manner and create new Agri-tourism policy criteria that will meet the needs of both residents and farmers alike.

District staff will be presenting a brief background on Agri-tourism in BC and the District along with presenting possible options to amend Agri-tourism as permitted use within the community. The District is looking for public feedback to guide the development of future Agri-tourism policy.

Should anyone not be able to attend the October 5, 2011 open house, the information boards and copies of the open house survey will be on display at the District Municipal Hall until October 13th, 2011.

For more information contact: Development Services staff at the District of Lake Country. Tel 250-766-5650 or development@lakecountry.bc.ca