WEST KELOWNA - A bid by the District of West Kelowna to apply for an updgrade to city status is moving to the next level after only 166 counter petitions were submitted during the alternative approval process.
“There is no significant concern from the public and I think we made the right call using the alternative approval process, which costs $1,500 rather than a full-scale referendum which would have cost $30,000,” West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater says.
Historic Westbank Association, a group dedicated to promoting that part of the city, recently accused council of downplaying the issue and using the alternative approval process to slide it by voters.
While council will still get a chance May 26 to vote on the proposal to change the designation from District of West Kelowna to City of West Kelowna, the mayor says council has already indicated that’s what it wants.
“Council asked for this five years ago and the province said it couldn’t do it then,” Findlater says. “I don’t think there’s much doubt council will go ahead with this.”
After that, Findlater says the formal request will be made to the Ministry of Communities, which has already indicated it is willing to make the change.
“Minister (Coralee) Oakes and our MLA Christy Clark raised it with us last year at the Union of B.C. Municipalities,” Findlater adds.
Precedent was set a few years ago when Maple Ridge, a community of over 80,000, made the jump to city status. West Kelowna, by comparison, has a population of 33,000 which is close to that of Penticton, which is already a city.
Findlater says not much will be different on the surface once the status change is complete beyond changes to signs and decals on the district’s buildings and vehicle fleet.
The real change, he says, will be in the marketing of the city by the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission.
“One of the reasons we’re doing this is it makes it easier to attract new residents and new investment,” Findlater says. “City implies a sense of community that district municipality just doesn’t."
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