Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. It will be an essential component to the OCP review process especially when tying it together with the affordable & attainable housing strategy and how best to build confidence in the development community. The Smart Growth Principles can also help to guide the preparation of new land use policies and plans and as a tool to evaluate development proposals and schemes.
During the last term of Council, I was very supportive of our Climate Action Plan despite its very in depth and lofty goals. As noted, some of the climate impacts we are now seeing are a testament to how increased GHG emissions have waged a war against the environment which will affect everyone – right down to the local farmers market. But this plan is not just about what The City should and must do – it is about what we all can do collectively to help us meet our GHG emission targets of net zero by 2050.
What we have done already:
i. Implemented a phased in approach to the new BC Energy Step Code. By doing this, we can further develop our working relationship with the building/development community while we navigate these new processes.
ii. Made investments in EV Charging stations
iii. Made investments in new EV fleet for operations
iv. Made Investments in EV Bikes v. Hired new dedicated staff who will be responsible for keeping on target of our plan
vi. Implemented new compost program that will help to take organics from the landfill thus helping to reduce GHG emissions
a. The main risks to Vernon and its citizens, infrastructure and economy will come down to more major events such as flooding, extreme weather cycles, and fires. Any one of these could cause millions, and what we have seen recently, close to billions in damages should mitigation principles not be adhered to. A major flood could wipe of food production/crops, cause significant damage to city owned infrastructure and to personal property, which can have a serious impact on the economy. I like to think of it as a domino effect – no one is immune.
b. The Municipality is already taking great steps to mitigate and adapt where appropriate. We are already busy implementing a flood bylaw that will ensure homeowners are aware of the risks and take steps to prevent future flooding events as it pertains to building within a known flood zone.
c. The COV just completed a flood resilience and mapping project - A Detailed Flood Mapping, Risk Analysis and Mitigation Study which focused on the risks and potential impacts to the Vernon community if significant flooding were to occur on Vernon Creek or BX Creek. It also offers recommendations to help residents and the City of Vernon prepare for future flood events and mitigate negative impacts to the community.
d. There are numerous projects that came from the recommendations in the study which Council has endorsed and some are currently underway: BX Sedimentation Pond for one; dredging of the creek bed
e. We are also looking at fire mitigation principles to help educate homeowners about what they can do to prevent fires all the while making sure we use fire principles to protect current forest lands in interface areas.
a. Following through with the new BC energy Step Code
b. Continue to build alternative transportation corridors that will allow connectivity within our community well helping to reduce CO2 emissions
c. Continue to change over our fleets to EV, where appropriate,
d. Expanding our transit routes & times
e. Complete a GHG audit of City own property to see where immediate changes can take place and where future infrastructure changes will be necessary
f. Ensure new buildings are EV ready/EV infrastructure done at the building stage
Currently, the City of Vernon is working on their own Housing Strategy that will take into consideration some elements of the Regional Housing Strategy. As an advocate of affordable housing, I was the one who pushed for a regional approach to housing as we all must work collaboratively to make any progress. But with that said, Vernon is also in need of their own strategy that reflects our community and its needs. the Vernon Housing Action Plan (HAP) draws direction from the recent plans and experiences of community partners, non-profits, the Regional District of North Okanagan and the City. It integrates the outcomes of Council’s Strategic Plan and feedback from the City’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. The HAP is meant to bring all the information and strategies appropriate for Vernon into one document.
The 5 key directives that will be brought before Council for consideration are (as noted in the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee):
1. Increase the supply of rental housing
2. Increase diversity and affordability of market housing
3. Acquire land for affordable and attainable housing
4. Partner in the delivery of affordable and attainable housing
5. Educate, communicate, and strengthen relationships
Currently I am a participant on CEDI which is defined by - The First Nations–Municipal Community Economic Development Initiative aims to improve the economic prosperity of participating municipalities and adjacent First Nations through joint community economic development and land use planning. CEDI is a joint initiative of FCM and Cando. Since taking office, I have been a regular at our quarterly meetings where we learn to listen, be engaged and work collaboratively with OKIB. We’ve also formed relationships by asking for their insight before making recommendations so that we can share in their voice. I’ve done this on many levels – a notice of motion was put forward regarding Truth and Reconciliation. Before I brought this motion forward, I reached out for their guidance to ensure both wording, phrasing and commitment was supported. It is very easy to bring something forward but without proper dialogue and collaboration then we are not honoring that relationship nor their voice in the journey.
The City Lawyer’s drafted a policy that was generic. According to their own statement, we can adopt, mend, or adjust the policy to reflect the needs of our community. Although the policy was broad in nature, there were many things about the policy that required more thought and attention and at the time the motion was brought forward, it missed some valuable aspects that needed to be considered. For one, making an anti-racism policy should require staff to review all policies, bylaws and regulations through the same lens which was not something that was proposed. Further, our current policy does take into consideration all forms of bullying and harassment and that does include racist, sexist, and demeaning acts and it lays out a foundation for next steps. The COV prides itself on being a welcoming organization one that is free from any or all forms of discrimination. I would be willing to entertain a policy if we can firmly outline and define racism and who would be responsible for knowing the difference between being racism and simply being misinformed or uneducated. I would also want to see an educational component and what that would entail – description, cost, length of time and what the proposed outcome will be. I am a firm believer that standing up for all citizens is a must but implementing a policy and believing that this is all that needs to be done without the additional must haves should give any one pause for concern. At the time the motion was turn downed, it was noted that we had not one instance of racism within the COV and if we did it would be dealt with under the current bullying and harassment policy.
As you may already know, Arts & Culture is delivered through Greater Vernon Partners. Now with that said, that doesn’t mean we shouldn't start having conversations as to what this may look like – especially with the new Cultural Facility being built. The best place to start would be to create a new Public Art Policy that would hopefully incorporate a new cultural district, provide direction and input from a steering committee comprised of local artisans, indigenous elders and artisans and stakeholders who can help to shape and mold a clear directive forward. Much like Kelowna and how they created their Cultural District in the downtown core. Once we have a clearly defined Public Art Policy, then we can start to build on a broad range of art programs, initiatives, culture and heritage in our Community that would give way to a very diverse cultural lens. In fact, we already started this many years ago with the installation of the Heritage Murals.
The 2016 Greater Vernon Cultural Plan is a regional plan set out by the RDNO. And that plan, in general, is already being executed:
i. Approval of the new Arts & Culture Facility
ii. Investment in local organizations, non-profits for the sole purpose of enhancing arts and culture in the community – this is an ongoing initiative through the RDNO
iii. The COV is working with OKIB to bring forward interactive/interpretive signage to help showcase First Nations history and art throughout important parks within Vernon that have significant meaning
iv. In discussion with OKIB about installing an indigenous crosswalk to show support and build on Truth & reconciliation
v. And I would love to see an Art Walk that would allow local artisans an opportunity to showcase their art work as a lead up to the new Cultural Centre
I come from a family of artists & musicians. I believe arts and cultural is very important for any community. Not just to showcase our diverse culture & history but as a way to attract visitors/tourism & opportunity. Arts and culture is a huge economic driver. One that we should absolutely give our full attention to. So, what do I do to engage in it, I take in theatre, musical programming, attend vital fundraising events, and promote activities that all can enjoy. I’m also a collector of art. I buy local when I can. Support our many artisan entrepreneurs by attending markets and fairs. I shop and support local.
Living in one of the most picturesque places in the world, and I understand I’m biased here, but showcasing what we have to offer is paramount to helping promote and expand our business sector. There are many ways in which we can do this:
1. Tourism and promotion of Tourism. We have just approved our next 4+ year tourism and marketing plan which is there to showcase all that we have to offer. By promoting our community across many modes of communication – social media, radio, magazines and TV, we help to drive business to our community. We must continue to work in partnership with Tourism for the benefit of the many businesses already here and the new industries yet to come
2. Build appropriate infrastructure and amenities that will attract new families and workers to our community
3. Improvements to road infrastructure
4. Continue to support our local businesses during unprecedented times by working in collaboration with them through independent one on one discussions, DVA and the Chamber
5. Continue to work toward a vibrant downtown which includes housing. It has been known for some time that bringing quality housing in the downtown core will help to foster growth and retention with increased traffic.
6. Housing- continue to work toward building housing across the housing continuum and follow the recommendations as determined through the Regional Housing Needs Assessment
7. Take a hard stance on crime as crime is having a significant impact on local small businesses by ensuring we have adequate bylaw enforcement, RCMP and boots on the ground. And continue to advocate for an overhaul of the justice system when it comes to prolific offenders who make up more than 80% of the crimes being committed
Labor shortages are a real problem whether you are a small or large firm. The lack of affordable & attainable housing has real consequences for many local businesses. Therefore, this Council has already made great strides in working to strengthen their building permitting processes so that we can reduce timelines. Some of these changes are already well underway:
i. Hired a few more planners
ii. Implementation of an online application process
iii. Collaborating with the development community on unique ways to make improvements to our processes, policies & communication
iv. Working closely with Northern Immigration Pilot Program
v. Continue to promote “shop local”
vi. Streamline internal operations
Although the majority of the lands used for agricultural purposes are not located in the City of Vernon, we are still supporting them regionally through the RDNO. In fact, Spallumcheen has just set a side lands that will become an agri-hub that will hopefully support a wide variety of agricultural business opportunities including processing. We need to continue to attract new industry but to do so we need to ensure that our community continues to offer opportunity, improved infrastructure and amenities that can cater to a wide swath of diverse peoples.
Continue to be engaged, have open and honest dialogue, be cognizant of the issues and be willing to address them early, listen and help find solutions with local stakeholders. Pivot when required to do so. even though businesses are resilient on their own there will be unprecedented times, like we have already seen, where local government can find solutions that can bring financial/taxation relief. Be a partner in promoting our businesses through tourism and other DVA/Chamber initiatives. Many small and mid-size businesses don't have the necessary financial resources to weather unpredicted storms - we must be willing to have a discussion on possible solutions with prescribed outcomes because in the end our business community is truly the backbone of our local economy.
a. Food scarcity is a real concern especially when you live in an area that has seen both flood and fire. Both of which can and will have a significant impact on our food supply. Now with the cost of inflation risen to numbers we have not seen in well over 30 years, it’s impacts can be felt across the socio-economic spectrum but with a greater degree of impact on those who are most vulnerable. Due to this, we have been working hard to preserve agri-land and have been working closely with the RDNO to do this.
b. Encourage local community gardens and roof top gardens
c. Educate on fire mitigation principles so that people can protect and preserve their own land from the devasting impact of fires
a. I have always believed that this is a multi-faceted issue that requires all levels of government to collaborate. Although healthcare is not within our purview, being a participant at the table ensures that we can address both the short-term and long-term impacts of any initiatives on the broader community.
b. We must continue to advocate to senior levels of government to improve treatment facilities and increase funding for healthcare so that we can provide the necessary treatment when required
c. We must continue to go over after the “dealer” and “supplier” of toxic drugs
d. Continue to work with IHA and be a partner in the solution
Community and public engagement is paramount in ensuring our parks and rec facilities are diverse and inclusive of all people. Through proper public engagement, we can ensure that the very facilities we are creating meet the needs of the people to which it serves. Understanding their core beliefs, wants and needs we can help to shape our programming, continue to invest in diverse and accessible parks, and promote improved amenities such as the newly proposed Kin Race Track Athletic Park and the New active Living Centre. Both of which had thorough public engagement and participation.