LETTERS:Identity crisis in Summerland

Penticton Western News letters to the editor for the Nov. 12, 2014 issue.

Identity crisis in Summerland

How would you imagine Summerland in 20 years? What kind of community would you identify Summerland as being? What brought you to Summerland and what keeps you here?

These are several questions I ask myself and ponder all the time, tough questions at times. Now turn back the clock 20 years and ask the same questions? They were as relevant then as they are today. Why, because Summerland suffers from an identity crisis and has suffered from nearly 20 years of stagnant growth.

I moved to Summerland with my family in 1979 and at that time and through the 1980’s we identified Summerland as a mainly retirement community, but with a vibrant growing tourism component, strong downtown business environment and a longstanding history in agriculture. The community was thriving and growing and was beginning to attract a growing younger demographic. The population in 1979 was just under 7,000 and growing at a healthy, but sustainable rate. I recall in high school calculating the district’s growth rate and it was projected to have a population of 20,000 around the year 2010. Wow, that certainly did not happen! Twenty years of 0.5 per cent growth hit and we are at approximately 11,700 today.

The community has only grown by 700 since 1996. What happened? We cannot blame this on global or regional changes to economy, as many of our Okanagan neighbours have flourished, during the same period.

Many residents have moved to Summerland to enjoy the small town feel and security etc. Many would suggest that they like to keep it this way, however stagnant growth such as this is being on the verge of the death of a community. Yes this is a retirement community and always will predominantly be that way and that is good too, but we also need to attract families, professionals, business, etc. to allow the town to flourish and be sustainable for years to come.

I recall many years of missed opportunities, and opposing opinions that have chased good development projects away. Ideas such as Patagonia Resort, Summerland Hills, among others.

How about delaying large projects, which in turn cost us more in infrastructure costs, such as turning down the idea of a joint 911 services building to the tune of a maximum of $3 million, and  then eight years later paying $4.5 million for the RCMP building alone.

This just scratches the surface of missed opportunities. The results that I have seen are friends and co-workers moving away, businesses leaving for a better business climate, service professionals such as teachers, doctors, pharmacists, not living in Summerland raising their families.

It would appear that many candidates running for council and residents alike are making the “land swap” the main issue during the election. It is not, the issue really is the lack of direction and progress regarding Summerland.

As for the land swap, I have seen and heard opponents of this speak out and say this is not where the growth should be, but towards the hills. Less than 10 years ago, those same voices spoke out against development on the hillsides and said we should in-fill and have smart growth near the town core, where the infrastructure exists. So to those people, which is it?

Apparently you just want no growth. Well you seem to have got that for the past 20 years and it is getting us nowhere. The land in question is adjacent to existing infrastructure for lower cost of development, allow for well planned, long term growth. As for the “good” agriculture land, take a look around, it has been mainly vacant for 30 years.

So with the civic elections only days away, keep this in mind when you vote, do you want Summerland to stay exactly the same or to actually grow and flourish for generations to come? Some of our candidates do not want any change.

Darren McWatters

Summerland

 

Support for National Park

I would like to thank Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) for promoting the concept of a national park in the South Okanagan of B.C.

He is correct in stating that this area represents one of the most important ecosystems of the world and includes nearly 60 federally listed endangered species.

I have been familiar with this issue since my election in 2006 and have met with those on both sides of the debate.

My conclusion is that the proposed park is the best way to preserve this pristine area. This will also create jobs and have a positive effect on our local economy.

The Union of BC Municipalities recently passed a resolution in support of the park which has the support of local Chambers of Commerce, First Nations, environmental groups and many others.

There have been legitimate concerns expressed about the continuing viability of a local helicopter school as well as the ranching community. These have been addressed by Parks Canada. It should be remembered that the establishment of a national park is a lengthy process. A few years ago, I was told by the former federal Environment Minister, Peter Kent that the federal government would resume negotiations should the province of B.C. make the request. Concerns of ranchers and others can be addressed once negotiations resume between the two levels of government.

I strongly urge our provincial government to re-engage in this important process.

We have a chance to do something right for future generations.

Alex Atamanenko, MP

BC Southern Interior


Crafty politicians

I attended the craft sale at the Trade and Convention Centre on Sat. Nov. 1.

A lone man occupied one of the booths. He was not selling a craft of any sort, he was campaigning for a seat on Penticton city’s council.

It is my opinion that booths at a craft fair should be occupied by people who have made things to sell, not for politicizing.

Dorothy Percy

Penticton

 

Legion sees bright future ahead

The Penticton Branch of the Legion was placed under trusteeship by the Royal Canadian Legion BC Yukon Command on Nov. 1, 2014.

The operation of the branch will be handled temporarily by command office with local support.

The branch remains open as usual. All special events during the busy holiday season and, of course, the popular and important poppy campaign will be unaffected.

“Branch 40 has a strong future ahead; Penticton is a Legion town with a history of great volunteerism and exceptional Poppy campaigns. The citizens of Penticton deserve the benefit of a Legion in their community, and it is the intention of B.C. Yukon Command to ensure all your veterans and those men and women currently acting in service to Canada have the resources and support they need going forward,” says Command president Angus Stanfield.

B.C. Yukon Command sees a bright future ahead for the Penticton branch, we encourage all Penticton area members to assist in electing a new executive on Nov. 17, and to renew their memberships for the upcoming year. Command also encourages the general public to consider joining; military service is not a requirement for Legion membership.

Inga Kruse

Executive Director

 

For prosperity

On Nov. 15 I’m voting for Andrew Jakubeit. Recently at an open forum Mr. Vassilaki started his speech by admitting he sometimes has diarrhoea of the mouth and there is no telling what words are going to come out. Andrew Jakubeit thinks before he speaks, wants to mend fences and improve engagement within the community. At a recent mayoral forum Andrew Jakubeit was very inspiring, he spoke directly to the issues and didn’t dress it up with patronizing motherhood sound bites. I like to think of Andrew as the face of our community. As a young business owner, he’s community minded, and willing to work to make things happen. Many in this community dislike change and they sometimes complain quite vocally. Some are still complaining about the South Okanagan Events Centre. We would do well in remembering that the original investment in the SOEC was made with provincial tax dollars, (thus the name South Okanagan) the remaining payments (ending in 2017) are being made with casino profits not municipal taxes; the Community Centre was built with federal, provincial and municipal dollars.

The SOEC is an important economic driver, the Community Centre pool has doubled its usage (which substantially reduced its municipal tax subsidy) and the Lakeshore walkway gets great year-round usage. These community projects are all great examples of where intense public debate and scrutiny turned to appreciation and community pride.

Mr Jakubeit, having had a positive influence in the above mentioned projects can lead a bold and decisive council over the next four years. For prosperity in Penticton, I’m voting for Andrew Jakubeit.

Alan Kidd

Penticton

 

Meet and greet a great event

As a chamber of commerce member for seven years I was excited at the opportunity to attend the candidates meet and greet at the Ramada on Nov. 5.

I was extremely surprised at the lack of attendance by the business community but pleased that this allowed me one-on-one time with each candidate. Throughout the evening I met individuals that are obviously very passionate about Penticton and concerned about all the hot topics of the current city council with a lot of opinions on what needs to be done or changed but perhaps a lack of answers as to how this would be achieved.  There were a few in the running that I believe realized they may be in over their heads but want to give it their best shot for the experience, some fantastic and intriguing individuals that are focused on environment and “local empowerment” and some that I have known for years and have worked with directly in the community who are all great and qualified contenders.

I want to thank the chamber for hosting this event which enabled me to decide, without a doubt who would get my vote and made me want to speak out in support for one of these candidates of my generation that has been brave enough to put his hand up for the job.  Max Picton has a tourism focus being a stakeholder in the industry here for 10 plus years, holds a seat on the tourism committee, organizes events and encourages visitors to the area, providing a unique experience for everyone who stays at his beautiful creation and small paradise on Skaha Lake.  I know there are some out there that feel that tourism is a seasonal industry that doesn’t sustain the economy year round and shouldn’t be our focus, but let’s be honest, it is one of our largest industries and it is extremely underdeveloped on an international scale and deserves/needs attention.

However, tourism aside, I had a discussion with Max at the Ramada that confirmed my belief that he deserves a spot on city council.  He has taken the time to educate himself beyond the buzz words of the local media coverage and has rolled up his sleeves and done his homework on a wide range of topics that concern the community.  He is a young, smart, community-focused business man and I believe that if what we are looking for is change, than he is a man that deserves our vote.

Lyndie Hill

Hoodoo Adventure Company