The critical answer is YES, I am committed to Smart Growth Principles. I pushed hard for them in the public process connected with the redevelopment of the OCP in 2007, 08, 09, and maintaining them each time the OCP was reviewed. It is important to remember that a single-family home converted into a duplex, doubles density. So, a single-family home in the inner core converted to a 4 plex has a dramatic impact on density, sharing of municipal operational costs and easing access to City services and facilities. Council makes final decisions on the OCP while it is community members that provide advocacy. I would use my time prior to and in Council meetings to speak strongly on the advantages of maintaining our current smart growth principles in the revised OCP and vote accordingly.
Most important part of the Climate Action Plan is the continuation of OCP, Neighbourhood Plans and zoning that keeps the City on track for being a liveable (soft density) compact community for the majority of residents. The second most important is to work with the Province and Federal government to development and implement an energy improvement renovation program for existing residential buildings focusing on multi-family buildings to start with to lower GHG emissions and make them far less impacted by high heat.
The main risks to Vernon are flooding (mainly via our two creeks), wildfire for our interface areas and wildfire smoke through impacting human health, agriculture and our economy. The City must upgrade creek crossings’ infrastructure to minimize potential flooding, dramatically reduce fuels loads including fire smarting neighbourhoods in our interface areas, and activity work with our Provincial ministries on crown land wildfire mitigation at scale.
In the long-term implementing a soft increase in density, eventually tripling our density across the inner bowl of the City, will minimize travel distances to most services and events. It will also make active, and bus transport more attractive and much more highly selected. Implementation of schemes like the electric kick scooters quickly reduces GHG production from short single person trips (184,000 trips in less than 2 full non-winter seasons). Electric personal vehicles will quickly replace internal combustion vehicles over the next decade in BC, switching to a renewable energy source. Retrofitting existing buildings (primarily residential) will require funding and carrot/stick programs from the Province and federal government.
City of Vernon is a way out in front of other communities in the Regional District. The City is already actively implementing most of the recommendations as follows:
1. Most residential zones in the city already allow secondary suites and housing in secondary buildings commonly referred to a carriage houses,
2. Small lots (see the new 46 lot subdivision at Okanagan Ave. and Apollo Rd.) and side by side townhouse developments (see 20th Street between 39th Ave. and 43rd Ave.) are now common in our current inner core new subdivisions, and in the new medium cost housing projects,
3. Infill is actively promoted and encouraged by the City as seen in the Seaton, lower East Hill, Harwood and Alexis Park neighbourhoods,
4. City owned land has been leased to not-for-profits for social housing for $1/yr. for 35 years and the City is actively exploring new locations to continue the practice,
5. Fast tracking of social housing already matches our operating principles for our development approvals,
6. Development cost charges for social housing developments are paid for the general public instead of by the actual project providing a significant cost savings to the project (approx. $20,000/unit depending on location),
7. Parking variances have been provided for the last 5 low cost social housing projects to minimize cost and wasted space of unused parking as lower income individuals far have fewer vehicles per unit.
8. The City is actively looking to purchase additional land suitable for multi-family lower cost housing most likely to be leased under similar conditions as previous not-for-profit projects.
My priority is to continue with this 8 pronged approach, plus continue to build the tight relationship with BC Housing that enabled the substantial provincial investment in social housing (298 units) over the last 3.5 years while actively lobbing for more social housing units.
I have been very active on the OKIB/CoV Working Group (2 politicians and 1 one senior staff person from each community) that now meets monthly working to enhance our relationship and advance joint servicing, economic development, recreation, and tourism for mutual prosperity. It is important to note that over my 40 year professional career in community and economic development, 50% of my time has spent working for aboriginal communities and their organizations including both OKIB and Splatsin so I understand the issues extremely well.
I voted for the proposed new “anti racism” policy which was defeated by the majority of Council. I would vote the same way if a similar policy was proposed for the newly elected Council. Staff at the City of Vernon has already been very active in this area with education programs and activities. It is time for Council to catch-up to our community and our staff.
The critical areas are organizational capacity development for all arts and culture groups right across the City, construction of the new GVCC and enhancement of other arts and culture facilities in the City including consistently reinvesting in the Community Arts Centre, Performing Arts Centre, Museum and Public Art Gallery. The plan for the GVCC also includes outdoor space for programmed and ad hoc events. The re-development plan for Polson Park and Kin Race Track Athletic Park also needs to include enhanced areas for arts and cultural activities.
As a member of GVAC (locally mandated to provide funding and facilities for cultural activities) over the last 4 years I have pushed (successfully) for increases in funding for cultural buildings and human capacity to advance arts and cultural activities. I have also pushed hard to move the Greater Vernon Cultural Centre (GVCC) project forward including getting a business plan prepared and a space requirement commitment from the 3 (expected) organizational tenants, and land commitment from the City of Vernon. The GVCC project is now moving quickly with fund raising, and building design parameters with a firm location.
Personally, I engage in the performing arts through multiple attendances at the Power House Theatre, Performing Arts Centre, Paddlewheel Hall, Women’s Institute Hall (Coldstream), Caravan Theatre, Trinity United Church performances, The Jazz Club and events in our parks plus having supported music schools in the City. You do not want me on stage, or hear me try to sing, so I leave that to my much more talented wife. My wife and I also take in major performances in other Okanagan cities each year.
I am a regular at visual arts and crafts displays including the Community Arts Centre and Creative Chaos and have enjoyed visits to our museum, O’Keefe Ranch and Caetani House once they re-opened after COVID related restrictions.
Existing business retention and expansion strategies are the easiest ways to grow a sustainable local economy. The City’s planning and engineering staff need to continue to work quickly with appropriate businesses in the community that want to expand using levers in our current development processes. Our economic staff needs to be able to link current operations (non-tourism) with regional services and employees (see Question 2) to enhance their operations. Provide a linking services to other like businesses to enhance the conglomeration effect.
In the tourism sector, where the MRDT funding is available, focus the marketing on BC, Alberta and Washington where the bulk of our visitors originate as articulated in the new 5 Five Year Marketing Strategy. In addition, move to destination management by directly assisting with an expanded coop marketing budget and product development services with the goal of growing the quality of visitors’ experience over adding to the number of visitors in already high occupancy seasons (mid summer and mid winter).
Currently skilled human resources are in a shortage right across the country and particularly in BC. The best short term strategies are linking with Okanagan College and UBCO while students are in their programs before they graduate, and then promptly follow-up when they graduate. The success of the Rural and Northern Immigrate Program clearly points to the need to assist employers to link with CFDC-NO to enroll in the program and provide information on the skilled workers that they are requiring. Also link businesses with the Ukrainian refugees through the Vernon and District Immigrant and Community Services Society.
A critical strategy for all local employers to find people who are already live locally, with the skill set required and see what their barriers are to employment or full employment. This is why the City’s lobbying and provision of land for two new child care facilities is so important as their construction and operation will greatly assist more than 200 families to participate fully in the local workforce. Continuing to lobby for additional funding for more child care facilities is a solid role for the city as increasing the workforce participation from those who are already here is critical to overall economic and community success. Another strategy is to link individuals with the capacity but not the skill set to education opportunities which is the role of other organizations in the City.
Finally, the City must continue implementing its housing strategy initiatives to encourage the development of housing for those who choose to work in Vernon because potential employees have turned down positions in Vernon in the last 12 months because of the lack of affordable housing.
The City, in conjunction with CFDC-NO needs to continue to built links with information technology companies already operating in the Okanagan (particularly the North Okanagan) to assist them with expansion. The City, also needs to link closely the Township of Spallumcheen supporting their new business park for agriculture products processing.
Seek out partnerships with the Province and the federal government to design, resource and implement climate resiliency consulting/planning for small and medium sized business in the North Okanagan. In conjunction with our Chamber of Commerce and CFDC-NO establish and deliver a climate resiliency education program to businesses. The education program must have components on the new opportunities as climate change will bring significant market shifts opening opportunities across all sectors.
The City’s role to operate cooling centres and specialized transport for those with mobility challenges at times of high heat, like our recent heat dome in 2021. These centres have been pet friendly, critical to many. The City must provide additional drinking water stations for rehydration during high temperate days.
Improved snow removal at bus stops is critical to those accessing local buses during severe winter weather to obtain life’s necessities.
Lobby the provincial and federal governments for programs to retrofit current apartments that do not meet current standards to minimize heat loss, heat gain and provide air conditioning during hot days.
The City’s role is to work with the provincial government to provide supportive and non-market housing for those experiencing homelessness. It is also the City’s role to enable home owners to add suites to their single family dwellings through zoning and prompt permitting to expand the supply of lower cost housing in the community. Provision of mental and physical health are Provincial responsibilities and local governments do not have the legal mandate nor the financial resources to participate in the provision of services. Our local government’s role is to assist the provincial ministries and their agencies with locating facilities in the community. Local government politicians also sit on regional hospital boards that provide 40% of the funding through local taxation (Hospital Tax) to make sure adequate health facilities exist in the region. The City also needs to continue employing enough trained Bylaw Officers to successfully interact with those experiencing homelessness to guide them to services and to minimize the negative interactions with the broader resident and visitor community.
Expansion of parks and their facilities located in all residential neighbourhoods to minimize the transportation barriers for those with transportation challenges. Examples in the last 4 years has been the expansion of Girouard Park, the new Jump Start playground at Marshall Fields, construction of Civic Memorial Park, construction of Lakeshore Park, upgrading of numerous Okanagan Lake accesses, replacement of Lakeview Pool (Peanut Pool) and planned redevelopment of Pottery, Deer, Kin Race Track Athletic parks.
Keeping recreation facilities meeting diverse needs requires a broad multi-faceted approach. For those with financial challenges the special recreation passes program is critical to continue. Buildings and parks need to provide easy access for those with all levels of physical abilities which is a focus of the Jump Start playground with associated upgraded washrooms and the playground at the new Civic Memorial Park with washrooms soon to follow. Meeting other needs must be maintained as a corner stone to public recreation programs and funding.