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Civic election: One-on-one with Princeton mayoral candidate Spencer Coyne

Coyne wants another term

Castanet News is interviewing each mayoral candidate running for local council in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

All candidates have been asked the same questions as their fellow riding candidates, and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity when needed. An interactive database of Okanagan candidates, including previous questionnaire stories, is available here and is being updated daily.

Election day is Oct. 15.

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Spencer Coyne: Princeton incumbent mayoral candidate

Why do you want to be mayor and what do you believe you can bring to the position?

I really want to see the job finished. There are a number of reasons I ran [originally], but the main reason I ran was because I wanted to see a future for my kids and the next generation, and for the generations to come. That hasn't changed. It's been more complicated now with the flooding, and the recovery effort that we are undergoing right now, I want to see that through.

I think that we need strong leadership and we need experienced leadership right now. We need an experienced team that would lead us through what has to come next, I forged ahead with a number of different relationships across the province and that is helped us immensely with being able to acquire the funds and acquire the things that we need to be able to do the job that we have to do. And I don't want to see that stall out.

Princeton has years ahead of recovery from the floods of last November. What is on your priority list for getting the town back on its feet?

There's so much. Our number one priority right now is water. Temporary housing is starting to unfold. But the water system is still a ways off [but] we are in the process right now. Then in October, we will start the permanent well drilling. We've got our test wells but the next stage is to drill the permanent wells, and then get to permitting to construct the actual water system for the new waterworks. So that's the next stage. That's going to take some time but that's priority number one is to get that back.

But on top of that is our infrastructure overall. Our infrastructure was ignored for so long. We were already working from a deficit prior to the flood and being able to continue with the infrastructure work that we've done, pre and post-flood, I think that's got to be the number one thing.

Second is our housing situation, we walked into a situation where we were already facing the housing shortage, and the flood made that even worse.

We've been able to attract several investors to the community to start working on some housing projects. We have one housing project, if that goes through that's 150 units, and the other one is another 150 to 160 units. So we're looking at around 300 plus new doors in the next few years, just based on the work and the efforts that we've gone through to get to where we're at.

It's just a continuation of the work that we're doing. But bringing that to life. There are a lot of other issues that we still got to deal with and things there that we need to do. But priority number one is water. The second is housing.

In your view, what is the number one issue facing the town today? And how would you deal with it knowing town hall only has so much power?

I don't know if there's one number-one issue, to be honest. I mean, there are two issues. And housing and water, or housing and infrastructure are our two issues. They go hand in hand. If we don't have adequate infrastructure, we can't have housing. And without housing, we don't have the tax base to do what we need to do. So they kind of work off of each other, but when we look at what needs to get done next, it's getting those wells drilled and getting them permanent now that we can do that and continue to work with developers to grow our housing market.

What is one project council voted through the last term that you agreed with, and want to see come to fruition?

The biggest project is our infrastructure project. We were able to move forward with a $7 million borrowing plan to do $7 million in infrastructure upgrades, I am so excited that we were able to do that. We took it to the public for an alternative approval process and that was approved. Now we have gone through all the steps to get to that point and we can start building. That is so critical for our community.

But it's a big thing, too, because the community hasn't done any major infrastructure upgrades since the mid-80s, mid-70s. So we're looking at 30 to 40 years of not having infrastructure upgrades to our community and this is so critical right now.

There is a lack of vacancy and affordable housing options throughout the Okanagan-Similkameen, including Princeton, what would you have the municipality do to improve the problem?

There's a huge lack of affordability, but there's a lack of housing period. What we've already done, and what we'll be continued to do is we've made the investment climate better. We've opened up secondary suites and carriage houses, on most of our lots in our community, to just try to up build that short term.

I've been working with the province and the Ministry of BC Housing and the Minister of Housing. And I received a commitment from the Minister to help solve this problem. We've been working on this and it's not something that happens overnight.

We partnered with the Princeton and District Community Services, and they put in an application earlier, but we were unsuccessful. Since then, we are still partnering and working with them. We are working with private investors to look at the option of affordable housing through other means and we're also working with the Ministry directly.

We're looking at it from all angles and will continue to look at it from all angles because it's not just one thing. If we have new houses that are new builds, people who are looking to upgrade will move up in those upgrades. And when they move out, they may want to turn your house into a rental opportunity, or they may want to sell it.

Either way, it creates more space in the market space for rentals and investment opportunities for people who are looking to buy their first home or upgrade a home or go from a rental into home ownership. But it needs to be on both sides. We need the public-supported housing, like affordable housing for seniors and families. We also need the private sector stuff where we have rentals and new homes.

What improvements do you see in your municipality, four years from now, if elected?

If I can get re-elected and hopefully I can, there are a couple of really big things that are still outstanding. One of the biggest ones is our parks and recreation strategy and plan. The last time it was done, which will be 10 years next year, was supposed to be one of the things we wanted to get done before the term was over. But just with everything, we weren't able to get to it. That is a pretty big chunk of where the future of our community goes.

We've just finished an OCP review that's just been finalized, zoning is next on that. That's going to look after a lot of the development side of things like in the planning stage. The next thing is what are we going to do for arts, culture and recreation, and that's where we gotta go next, is how do we continue to grow those amenities for the community, and not just the amenities for in our community, but the people who want to come to our community to visit and to possibly move here.

The biggest thing that I would like to see in the next four years is continuing down the road we're going on because right now we're on a really good pathway to increase our housing market, increase our business opportunities and our commercial industry.

The next step is arts, culture and recreation so we need to get that plan figured out, and we need the public consultation on it. And then we need the action, not just study that's going to go on the shelf, but real-time, let's get this done.

Anything else you want to add?

It's been a real pleasure and it's been an honour, more importantly, serving my community over the last four years. We've been through some pretty big challenges. But at the same time, the community coming together the way it has, through all of it has driven me to continue getting up every morning and working as hard as I do and the number of hours I do because I know at the end of the day I'm helping. When I walked down the street and people stopped me and they said thank you, thank you for doing this or thank you for doing that, it leaves you speechless. I can't put into words how you feel.

There are a lot of times you go to work and you don't know if you're doing anything positive. But over the last four years, the way our community has come together and the way our community has moved forward. It just gives you that energy to get up no matter what.



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