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Opinion  

Delivering on priorities

Work completed by City of Kelowna staff at the direction set by council aligns with the 10 priorities identified for the 2014-18 term to meet the needs of our community. The initiatives build on the opportunities of a rapidly growing and changing city while also addressing the challenges that come with growth, increased urbanization and climate change.

“Regularly reviewing our priorities helps us ensure we are on track and delivering value to residents,” said Kelowna city manager Doug Gilchrist. “Some of the highlights from the past four years include the significant progress made towards increasing housing availability and enhancing our transportation network with projects such as John Hindle Drive and Okanagan Rail Trail. The sizeable $148.8 million in external grant funding secured also illustrates how we strive to be resourceful to deliver infrastructure and provide services to our community.”

In addition to the significant external grant funding for city projects, the retrofitting of 10,000 streetlights, with nearly $13-million in projected operational cost savings and the creation of a new sponsorship and advertising program to generate new revenue contributed to consistent strong financial management.

Helping to ensure a strong economy, and acting as a catalyst for business, investments were made to upgrade infrastructure at Kelowna International Airport and we launched the city’s own dark fibre network to bolster our thriving technology sector. 

More than 8,000 building permits worth more than $2.2 billion in construction, a revitalization plan for the Capri-Landmark area, parking strategies downtown and around the hospital, plus improvements to Rutland Centennial Park contribute to the development of vibrant urban centres. 

Residents and visitors alike were encouraged to discover the beauty of our natural environment with the creation of 26 Active by Nature routes for a healthy, safe, active and inclusive community.

Key transportation connections were built to offer a balanced transportation network that encourages an active lifestyle and other ways to get around town: John Hindle Drive, Ethel Street Active Transportation Corridor and the Okanagan Rail Trail. A total of 25.3 kms of bike lanes and 5.5 kms multi-use pathways were added. Roundabouts were built, roads widened, and transit exchanges constructed to improve connections and provide traffic flow solutions.

The $47-million Journey Home Strategy is a milestone achievement to address homeless. It is a five-year plan to ensure everyone has a place to call home. Hiring a Social Development Manager, piloting a transitional storage program and increasing zoning options for supportive housing and temporary shelters further demonstrate commitments to support our most vulnerable residents.

To encourage urban living, council endorsed incentives to make multi-family development more attractive. This direction has resulted in a housing shift in which 63 per cent of new builds in 2017 were multi-family, compared to 39 per cent in 2014. Housing diversity was increased with the bolstering of the Rental Housing Grants program that encouraged more than 2,900 rental units, and a partnership with BC Housing will bring more than 350 affordable housing rental units for families, seniors and low-income individuals to the market.

Addressing the complex issues to keep citizens safe in a growing city, council approved funding for 50 new positions to enhancepublic safety: 16 RCMP officers, 12 firefighters, seven bylaw officers and 15 police services and bylaw support staff. Resources were committed to increase foot patrols downtown and needle pickup in parks, the bylaw/RCMP summer bike patrol teams were increased to four teams and a safety consultant was hired to work with multi-levels of government and the community for safety solutions. A new $48-million police services building was opened to centralize police administration and operations and renovations to the Glenmore firehall 8 resulted in it being staffed 24/7 by career firefighters.

Moving towards a city-wide integrated water system, the Kelowna Integrated Water Phase 1 Project will bring clean drinking water to 2,000 Southeast Kelowna households and deliver a sustainable agriculture water supply to the South Mission. The $86-million project is supported by a $43.9-million senior government grant plus an additional $12-million provincial grant secured for Phase 2.

The Agricultural Plan was updated to protect agricultural land and promote sustainable farming.

“The work done to date positions us for a future Kelowna that puts people first, values its history, encourages curiosity and creativity, and recognizes the changing roles of individuals, businesses, governments and community,” said Gilchrist. “Imagine Kelowna is the culmination of more than 4,000 points of engagement with residents over two years – the largest city conversation ever. It positions us to succeed in a constantly shifting world.” 

How Kelowna grows matters to today’s residents and to future generations. In conjunction with the Imagine Kelowna vision, updates to the city’s long-term plans, the Official Community Plan and Transportation Master Plan will set the vision for growth to 2040.

To review the full description of highlights from the past four years, including a story map for an interactive look at projects, plans and services delivered to residents, visit kelowna.ca/councilpriorities.

– City of Kelowna communications dept.

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