Penticton isn’t likely to see much benefit from promises the province made last week to help communities deal with urban deer, according to Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
Responding to recommendations made by the Union of BC Municipalities, the province promised to create a provincial Urban Deer Advisory Committee and provide up to $100,000 for future urban deer management operations.
“There is a number of communities that are wanting to get together a working group on it and the province dedicated a small amount of money to making that happen,” said Jakubeit, adding that $100,000 wouldn’t go very far.
“Invermere spent more than that on their lawsuit trying to defend it. It’s $2,000 a deer for trying to trap and release,” said Jakubeit. “This is a bigger problem than $100,000 can fix and we need more commitment from (the province).”
Jakubeit said the issue of urban deer hasn’t been in the forefront lately because people have given up complaining about it, realizing there are a lot of governmental hoops to go through, more provincial than municipal. However, he said it can be a problem.
“They have no fear. I have encountered them in the alleyway and had to change my route because they wouldn’t move and I didn’t want to walk past them.”
Another of the premier’s announcements that Penticton won’t see much benefit from is a promise to distribute $75 million in dividends to communities with populations under 25,000 over three years. Penticton’s population is estimated at nearly 33,000.
Jakubeit said that if a surrounding community, like Summerland, gets some improvements that attracts people to move or live there, Penticton may get some residual benefit of people coming into the city for shopping or entertainment.
“Penticton is still the hub, so there is some benefit,” said Jakubeit.
The mayor was more positive about talks with Peter Fassbender, minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. Among other things, Jakubeit said they bent his ear on a proposal to all communities to step up tax rates on vacant lots and brown fields.
If it has been vacant for more than a number of years, your rate goes up unless you can beautify it, make it a pocket park or something that is more of a community asset than a community eyesore, explained Jakubeit. He added Penticton would like to propose a test case or pilot project on the concept.
“It is sort of putting a bug in the minister’s ear and getting them excited. If we can make some headway, it would benefit a lot of communities,” he said. “We do have a number of brown fields here and vacant lots in high profile areas.”
Stable and consistent capital funding, affordable housing and legislative restrictions were also topics of conversation as Penticton councillors met with B.C. government representatives at the UBCM. That included a proposal that municipalities obtain regular capital funding if they have implemented an asset management plan, and allowing more flexibility in providing economic incentives, like the economic investment zones the city currently employs to encourage businesses to move here or expand existing operations.
He said the city would like to see incentives for smaller scale expansion, such as purchasing a major piece of equipment.