WEST KELOWNA - Like an awkward teenager, not quite sure where it fits in, the District of West Kelowna is looking to grow up into a full-fledged city.
“We have about 31,000 or 32,0000 people. We are in within the population range,” Mayor Doug Findlater says. “It would be more recognizable as a city in terms of attracting investment and people who want to be here. From my perspective, this would be a positive change that will benefit our community.”
Findlater says the district designation West Kelowna now carries, is rare outside of British Columbia and adding to the confusion is the number of organizations using that appellation.
“There would be reduced confusion with the regional district and the school district,” he says. “We’ve got three districts all doing business here. We think this would give us a stronger identity, internally and externally.”
West Kelowna is using the alternative approval process to move the status change forward, more because at $1,500, it’s much cheaper than running a full referendum.
“We’re trying to keep costs down,” he says. “There are those opposed to this, that’s the nature of the business. But we sense very little opposition to this.”
The counter-petitions are available at the district office and opponents have until May 11 to return them there.
Some 2,300 registered West Kelowna voters would have to file a counter-petition to force a district-wide referendum on the status change.
Should that fail to materialize, Findlater says the district would spend an additional $1,500 for related costs such as changing stationary, vehicle decals and new faces for the big welcome signs on Highway 97.
The mayor says the district enquired a few years ago about upgrading to a city designation but were told no by the provincial government because, while the district has the population, the large area it encompasses put their population to area ratio on the wrong side of the equation.
“They came back to us this fall and said they had the ability to bend the rules and would we be interested,” Findlater says.
One thing the district was careful to avoid was opening up the process to include a possible name change.
“We’re not going to refight the name fight,” Findlater adds, in reference to the acrimonious referendum in 2009 over naming the new municipality West Kelowna.
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