The curious sight of a power pole in the middle of a pebbly beach has become a symbol of a fledgling self-government drive in a remote Central Okanagan
More than half the 1,100 residents of the North Westside area have signed petitions
supporting the idea of breaking away from Central Okanagan regional district control.
Their goal is to at least examine the feasibility of setting up a new municipal government, which they believe would provide them with a more responsive and effective voice in local matters.
“We’re as far away from the regional district as you can get, emotionally and physically, and it feels that way,” Bob Andrews, president of the North Westside Communities Association, said Thursday.
“Many of us don’t believe we get the local government we should, and we’re interested in seeing if we can do better on our own,” Andrews said.
On Monday, Andrews, accompanied by about 20 North Westsiders, formally asked the Kelowna-based regional board to commission a so-called governance study, which would be paid for by the provincial government.
The board deferred a decision, pending a staff report, which could come at a meeting in September.
For his part, the regional board member who represents North Westside fully supports the idea of looking at alternate forms of government for the area.
“There’s always been a disconnect between the North Westside and the rest of the Central Okanagan,” said Wayne Carson, who was elected to represent the area in 2014 after serving as the community’s fire chief for 20 years.
“We’re such a small part of the regional district, and it’s like the Kelowna directors really couldn’t care less about us,” he said.
“Whenever I bring up any issues, you can almost see how irritated the other directors get.”
North Westside consists of communities such as Westshore Estates, Killiney Beach, Valley of the Sun and Fintry, as well as homes along Westside Road from north of La Casa resort to the Okanagan Indian band boundary.
It takes about an hour to drive from the North Westside down Westside Road to the regional district office on KLO Road in Kelowna, or 90 minutes going the other way through Vernon.
Among other things, North Westsiders are concerned about the lack of information on how their local tax dollars are spent, rising costs for water, and the lack of amenities in parks.
A small but telling example of the frustrations many North Westsiders feel with their
current local government, Carson said, was the placement of a power pole that serves a
regional district boathouse in the middle of a popular beach in Killiney.
“No municipality would allow a power pole like that right in the middle of one of their own beaches,” Carson said. “It would cost about $2,000 to move it, but the regional district has spent $6,500 on reports saying it’s fine where it is.”
Carson hopes the regional district approves the idea of requesting the province pay for a governance study by late September, so he can begin lobbying for the project at the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities Conference.
On its own, North Westside’s population of 1,100 is no impediment to incorporation. If self-government were set up, North Westside would rank about 70th in terms of population among B.C.’s 165 municipalities.
Regional district chairman Gail Given, a City of Kelowna councillor, believes the people of North Westside get good value for their tax dollars.
“But when people feel they want to explore their options, that’s certainly their choice,” Given said.
A decision by the 12-member regional board on whether to formally ask the province to carry out a governance study for North Westside will likely be made at the Sept. 19 meeting, Given said.