Summerland earns national recognition for zoning review

District wins 2012 Sustainable Communities Award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities

Picture a community where the bulk of the population lived within a 10-minute walk of the downtown core. That picture is exactly what Summerland has done.

The District of Summerland has been recognized by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for their zoning bylaw review and update that will minimize urban sprawl.

“We went in saying this is what our goal is, we want people getting up and walking. We have a beautiful downtown core and it is all flat. We took about a 10-minute walk from the core of town and said this is the area where we should be working to put the greatest density,” said Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino. “We want to take where maybe there is a single-family dwelling on a large lot, and put a duplex or a townhouse-type of complex. It makes homes much more affordable, more accessible and it puts more people in a walking area.”

The winners of the 2012 Sustainable Communities Awards were unveiled last week, recognizing municipal projects across Canada that demonstrate excellence in environmental responsibility. Perrino said by keeping the density in downtown core, it also promotes sustainability and climate action.

“The biggest reason for this is it helps to preserve agricultural land on the outside and it makes the best use of the land that has already got servicing for sewer and water. It is a lot less expensive because as soon as you start moving infrastructure all over the place then it really becomes a problem,” said Perrino, adding that building outwards also impacts public transit.

Summerland was chosen out of 80 communities for the award. The results of the zoning bylaw review and update may take years for residents to actually see.

“I probably won’t see it in my role as the mayor. It is going to take a few years and probably won’t be for five years until we really start to see the changes as those single homes start to turn into two or four homes. In 25 years, you will see a major difference and people will be utilizing that downtown core,” said Perrino. “I think our role as the council today is to prepare for the future so we are thrilled to be able to do it whether we see it or not. We know it’s the way the community ought to grow and we know it is the best thing that we could do for the community.”

The bylaw review and update was completed by the last council and took a year to complete.

Perrino said already a few developers have made use of the bylaw including changing a single family house into a seven-townhouse complex.