KELOWNA - The City of Kelowna is still in the midst of what Mayor Colin Basran says is the largest long-range visioning project taken on by the city.
Since last May, the City has been trying to engage citizens in Imagine Kelowna, a 25-year projection of where the city should be headed and how policy and planning documents can make it happen.
The process is ongoing until this fall, but Basran touted the process during the mayor’s annual ‘state of the city address’ to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce at the Coast Capri Hotel Wednesday.
“Imagine Kelowna takes into account all the current challenges we face and others we can anticipate,” he said. “As we continue to grow it will prepare us to address those challenges.”
But if the audience was hoping for some specifics or substance about the state of the city, they likely didn’t find it among the generalities.
He mentioned there would be darker times ahead, referencing the current turbulence in the United States.
“We will be a guiding light while we work together, constantly striving for inclusivity and acceptance.”
He spoke of inclusion.
“We are all one,” Basran said. “Division is just not acceptable.”
In just over half an hour, he mentioned everything from his recent travels to the community’s sister city in Japan, to issues surrounding homelessness to transportation needs.
According to Basran, there were 10 strategic areas council focused on during 2016 that they will continue to focus on for the coming year. He also spoke often of the need for balance.
“We, as a council, are working to find a balance of needs,” Basran said. “We want to be a catalyst to help address issues important for our future and we want to build solutions through various initiatives.”
He briefly spoke about homelessness, with a slight nod to the city’s controversial sidewalk bylaw to move along homeless people at any time of day. Again, he talked about balance.
“We need to benefit the entire community, while helping people on streets stay safe, keeping our commercial centres accessible for pedestrians and improving the public sense of safety in both our streets and parks,” Basran said.
With the help of a newly appointed social development manager, the city is working to develop a strategy connecting all the various resources aimed at helping the homeless, however no plan is in place.
The challenge of providing affordable housing is an issue Basran says council is working hard to overcome.
“We have a strong working relationship with B.C. Housing to continually partner on new projects for vulnerable residents.”
According to Basran, last week the City approved $420,000 rental housing grants for 11 properties comprising 1,070 rental units.
Projects for the coming year include replacing old and inefficient street lights with LED lights.
“Street lights account for 40 per cent of the City’s electricity costs,” the mayor said. “This $3.9 million project has a 15 year return on investment of $13 million.”
Another project the mayor says he hopes to begin construction on is the Okanagan Rail Trail. The 48.5-kilometre trail will connect Coldstream with Kelowna. It’s construction is dependent on financing.
At the conclusion of his speech the floor was opened up for questions to the mayor.
No questions were asked.
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