2017 coloured by disaster but still a good year, says Kelowna mayor - InfoNews

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2017 coloured by disaster but still a good year, says Kelowna mayor

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran addresses the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.
January 26, 2018 - 4:29 PM

KELOWNA - Neither floods nor fire could keep Kelowna down in 2017, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said Friday in an upbeat address to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

“Nearly half of 2017 was characterized by environmental disaster,” Basran said of the flooding and smoke-filled skies that plagued the city in 2017.

The mayor said the impact was stressful to citizens and damaging to both the environment and property not to mention a $3 million hit to the civic budget.

Basran said the city has learned much from the new high water mark set by the floods including vulnerabilities in the the sewer systems and how to respond to other threats in low-lying areas.

“While those who dispute human activity is having an affect on climate, there is no debate about the economic benefits of being better prepared for the natural disaster,” Basran said.

A State of the City address is an opportunity for the mayor and his council to point out last year's accomplishments, layout next year’s goals and if times are good, maybe brag a little and Basran did all of that.

“Our city’s growth isn’t happening by accident,” the mayor said, pointing out the city is growing by about a 1,000 residents a year. “It’s happening because this is an attractive place to live and because this council and previous councils had a vision to make our community an inclusive place where talent and innovation are valued."

Energy saving efforts are beginning to pay off with such things as the ongoing street-light replacement program that Basran said will soon replace over 10,000 lightbulbs and save the city $13 million over 15 years.

Another example is the newly opened Kelowna RCMP station on Richter Street which is twice the size but uses the same amount of energy as the old Doyle Street detachment.

“Each $1 million spent or saved equates roughly to a one per cent impact on the property tax rate set annually,” Basran pointed out.

On the touchy subject of property taxes, Basran told Chamber members his council has kept taxes in a lower range than those previous and that surveys show most Kelowna residents "would rather pay the same or more in taxes to maintain or expand services.”

It’s impossible not to notice homelessness in Kelowna and the mayor didn’t skirt the issue, admitting that social issues have for the first time in years displaced transportation as the number one concern identified by its annual citizen survey.

The solution to visible street homeless is coming next June, Basran said, when the Journey Home task force delivers its recommendations for an integrated homelessness management system.

“We are going to create a plan and a system that ensures anyone who is homeless and is looking for help will easily find it,” he said.

Basran also touched on efforts to increase the rental housing stock amid a dismal vacancy rate of just 0.2 per cent.

“The good news is the development community is responding to our population growth,” he said, with more than 2,000 additional rental units expected to be available by 2019.

Residential development was at an all-time high last year, with building permits issued for 2,672 units, up 30 per cent over 2016.

The mayor also said he has high hopes for the recent spate of high-rise developments threatening to nearing development in downtown Kelowna.

“This creates neighbourhoods of mixed housing types and commercial establishments, coffee shops, restaurants, food stores and other services,” Basran said.

He ended his address by offering tribute to retiring Kelowna city manager Ron Mattiussi who was given a standing ovation.

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