Wildfires and Fuel Mitigation
By Mayor Boot
Last weekend another fire dragon roared and breathed life into the Skaha Creek fire southwest of Penticton.
In the days leading up to the start of this wildland fire we were enjoying cooler, yet pleasant temperatures and sunshine under less smoke-filled skies.
I began the August 23 mayor’s report with: “Perhaps this change in weather signals the beginning of the end of the 2021 wildfire season and the hundreds of British Columbians who have been under evacuation alert or order can experience some relief from this traumatic experience.” While the Skaha Creek fire is a new blaze and is closer to home, thanks to almost 3,000 brave men and women—many from out-of-province or out-of-country—control and suppression of wildfire activity in other areas has resulted in evacuation orders and alerts being rescinded.
But fighting the fires, while immediate and emergent, is only part of the story…and the part that gets the most media coverage.
It takes planning a mitigation strategy, lots of money and time and—most importantly—community commitment to avoid a catastrophic fire event. While total prevention would be ideal, one cannot control weather events such as record low precipitation, record high temperatures and lightning strikes. (And no amount of work is going to eliminate human stupidity.)
That said, Logan Lake is a perfect example of what can be done. The entire population (2016 Census shows just over 1,200) was completely evacuated in mid-August when the Tremont Creek fire moved west and posed a threat to residents. The convergence of the BC Wildfire service and structure firefighters from around the province helped save the community.
The story behind the story is notable. Logan Lake was named Canada’s first FireSmart community in 2013. As Mayor Robin Smith stated, her community started working on a wildfire prevention program many years ago, “before it (the FireSmart program) was invented”. Sprinklers are set up on the roofs of many homes year-round in the District to provide a mist over the home in case of a wildfire.
Over the last several years the Summerland Fire Department has done much to mitigate the potential for a wildland fire in the District, including:
- Fuel modification work on 20 hectares in the Deer Ridge area, 19 hectares in the Pierre Drive/Pollock area and approximately 15 hectares of municipal lands in the Canyon View and Snow Avenue areas.
- Since 2010, the Summerland fire department has delivered 1371 FireSmart information packages, door to door to residential properties in either high or extreme wildfire hazard zones. This includes 722 packages delivered in 2019.
- Two Summerland neighbourhoods (Deer Ridge and Cartwright Road North) have done the work to receive FireSmart Canada certification.
- A Community Wildfire Protection Plan is in place and work (funding-dependent) is continuing to complete all items identified in the Plan.
- Recently, the District received grant funding to create fuel management prescriptions on ten parcels of municipal and Crown land totalling 214 hectares. Once these prescriptions have been developed the District will apply for further funding to have the prescribed work carried out. An additional 194 hectares of land have been identified for future prescription and treatment.
The District, with funding assistance from the provincial government, is working diligently to protect the community from wildfire. However, it is community effort that ultimately builds both a defence against wildfire and the resilience to bounce back should we go through a threat similar to that Logan Lake faced in August.
FireSmart your property, especially if your home is in or near a forested area, and ensure you and your household are prepared for an emergency. You can find information on FireSmart and emergency preparedness on the District’s website (https:/www.summerland.ca). You can also contact the Summerland Fire Department to conduct a FireSmart assessment of your property. Call 250-494-7211 or email [email protected] to schedule an assessment.
By Mayor Boot
From an unprecedented pandemic headlong into an unprecedented period of extreme temperatures. Impacts of a changing climate? Perhaps, but one thing is certain: June temperatures up into the mid-40s that followed an unusually dry spring resulted in very high demands on the Summerland Water Treatment Plant.
As noted in a June 28 media release, the District of Summerland is urging residents to reduce water consumption by 30% and, to aid in this reduction, Stage 2 watering restrictions went into effect on Tuesday, June 29.
The concern came from the Water Treatment Plant struggling to keep up with the demand—it can only treat a certain volume of water at once, and the equipment was overheating. Staff were able to make some changes to processes, operations and incoming flows to avoid a District-wide boil water notice.
Some irrigation services were suspended for several hours in the early hours of June 28. While this situation was not ideal for agricultural users, the decision was made to eliminate the risk of Summerland residents using potentially non-potable water in their usual morning routines.
These watering restrictions are not due to a lack of water storage within the District’s watershed, nor to a lack of water. In fact, the District of Summerland is fortunate to have access to several sources of water including Eneas Creek, groundwater, Okanagan Lake, and Trout Creek, which is the second largest watershed feeding Okanagan Lake.
Two of these sources, Trout Creek (supplying 90% of the water) and Eneas Creek (10%), are consistently used; groundwater is used intermittently as a drinking water source only when the levels of water in storage are lower than seasonal averages. Although the District holds two water licences to draw water from Okanagan Lake, currently neither of these licences are active.
Under Stage 2 watering restrictions, even-numbered residential addresses:
- can use underground irrigation systems to water between midnight and 6 am on Sunday and Thursday, and
- can use a sprinkler to water trees, shrubs, and lawns before 9:00 am or after 6:00 pm on Sunday and Thursday.
Odd-numbered residential addresses:
- can use underground irrigation systems to water between midnight and 6 am on Saturday and Tuesday, and
- can use a sprinkler to water trees, shrubs, and lawns before 9:00 am or after 6:00 pm on Saturday and Tuesday.
Micro-irrigation, drip irrigation or a hose with a shut-off nozzle can be used to water trees, shrubs or vegetables at both even- and odd-numbered residential addresses on any day, at any time. Go to https://www.summerland.ca/city- services/water/water-restrictions for more information on District watering restrictions.
Thirteen municipalities (including the District), three regional districts and four First Nation governments are served by the Okanagan Basin Water Board (OBWB). The Board, as advised by the cross-disciplinary Water Stewardship Council, delivers programs and activities to promote coordinated water management throughout the Okanagan Basin. One program is Make Water Work, an annual campaign to encourage Okanagan residents to use less water on their lawns and ornamental gardens. For more information, or to make a pledge, visit https://www.makewaterwork.ca.
Water is a natural resource that continuously flows through the hydrological cycle. But it is a finite resource.
Council’s 2018-2022 Strategic Priorities includes the development of a Watershed Management Plan. The document, a collaboration between provincial, First Nations and other stakeholder representation, will make recommendations for the long-term management of land and water resources in the watersheds.
The District continues to improve the water infrastructure, including separating the water lines so that agricultural water can bypass the water treatment plant, thus reducing demand on the facility. Water lines in the Prairie Valley Road area were separated in 2009, as were the lines during the 2015 Garnet Valley Road reconstruction project. The District will include waterline separation in the reconstruction of Giant’s Head Road slated for 2023. It makes for an expensive project (approximately $8M), but replacing the aged underground infrastructure avoids having to dig the road again later to separate the waterlines.
Okanagan Lake stretches 135 km from Penticton to Vernon and is fed by major inflows, including Trout Creek. Because of the sheer size of the Lake and its tributaries, it is easy to think our water supply is limitless. In truth, however, it will take continued collaboration, thoughtful management and strong stewardship to ensure this critical resource is available for future generations.
Electrical Utility / Energy Strategy
By Mayor Boot
Summerland is one of just five municipalities in the province that owns their electrical utility. The District buys electricity from Fortis and distributes it on publicly owned infrastructure (power lines, power poles, transformers) to Summerland customers.
There are several reasons why having a municipally owned electrical utility is beneficial. For example, in 2020, Fortis received approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission to raise electricity rates. However, because the utility is owned by the District, Council made the decision not to pass along the full rate increase to the consumers.
Another benefit of owning and operating our electric utility is that Council has been able to utilize electric revenues in order to reduce the overall tax rate burden on residents.
Aside from flexibility on rates and taxes, the real opportunity for Summerland residents lies in the ability to be flexible and innovative and build a utility that strengthens the community’s self-sustainability and resilience. In other words, build a revenue stream and create a system that consumers can rely on.
At our afternoon regular meeting, Council was presented with the District’s draft Energy Strategy Projects Report. Each of 15 potential energy projects was analyzed and evaluated using the following metrics:
- How well does the project meet Council’s strategic priorities of Infrastructure Investment, Community Resilience, Alternative Energy and Good Governance?
- What are the environmental (for example, sustainability and air quality) and social (for example, community pride and economic development) values of the project?
- Does the project benefit the District’s power system, specifically, diversifying the energy load, reducing demand, and increasing efficiency and reliability?
- Is the project economically feasible—will the investment show a profit over time?
Following the direction of Council, District staff has been working on creating an Energy Strategy Projects Report since early fall 2020. (The decision to explore how to capitalize on the benefits of owning the electric utility started in 2015.)
Of the 15 energy projects evaluated, six are either underway or being actively pursued and all six are in the top eight of the total projects. In order of evaluation scores (highest first) they are:
- electric fleet – replacing District fossil gas/diesel/propane with electric options. The District has an electric Zamboni and is seeking to purchase three electric SUVs.
- ·voltage conversion – upgrading the current 8 kilovolt (kV) to 25kV, to gain efficiencies, significantly reduce wholesale electricity costs, and improve system resiliency. This is a long-term and expensive project; the District will continue to seek grant funding to assist with the cost of the conversion.
- battery energy storage – installation of two 2 megawatt (MW) energy storage system that quickly dispatch power and lead to reduction in peak usage costs (referred to as peak-shaving), and increases system power quality and reliability. This project is already underway as part of the solar+storage project.
- electric vehicle chargers – charging stations for resident and visitor use. Earlier this year the District completed installation of 22 chargers (six are fast chargers), bringing the public EV charging infrastructure to 25.
- distributed generation (net metering) – a program that allows residential customers to generate their own electricity; excess energy is purchased by the District and put back onto the grid. This program was modernized in 2018.
- solar – several projects that strengthen the District’s electric utility, increase energy security and independence, support innovation, create jobs and attract new residents and visitors. The solar+battery storage project, distributed generation program and the solar arrays on the arts and cultural centre and municipal hall are all part of this initiative.
Council indicated an interest in further exploration of modern metering and micro hydro, the final two projects in the top eight.
Modern metering allows the district to record real time energy consumption through automated meter reading. The improved data accuracy will provide more electricity cost control options for customers. This means lower demand charges to the District and annual cost savings.
Micro hydro is an in-pipe turbine system installed in gravity-fed water pipelines to generate renewal energy that is not subject to weather conditions and has no environmental impact. The turbines do not impact water delivery and the generated energy can be used for peak energy and battery charging. Staff confirmed to Council that this project is a priority action in the Corporate Energy and Emissions Management Plan approved in March 2021.
The Energy Strategy Projects Report is a high-level analysis of each project using information from existing reports from other utilities, agencies and governments. Its implementation is not something that can be accomplished in a single Council term (or even two or three). Rather, it is a series of comprehensive potential projects that will continue to require a long-range perspective in project planning, process and/or installation, and financial planning.
By Mayor Boot
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges including the disappointment of being unable to gather at large social events, let alone visit with family and friends. We’ve had to adjust to virtual meetings, events and programs and, for many months, restrict visitation with older family members or those who live elsewhere.
Now more than ever, it’s important to find ways to connect with our friends, family and community and the District of Summerland Parks and Recreation team has found a way to do so safely!
The District is excited to announce that Summerland will be participating in the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge, a program that not only encourages individual physical activity, but promotes an all-of-community effort.
Helping to strengthen communities through physical activity and sport, the Community Better Challenge will award $100,000 to the community who rallies individuals, families and community organizations to accumulate the most active minutes (per capita) during the Challenge. The $100,000 is to be used to support local physical activity initiatives.
The Challenge runs the entire month of June 2021. If you have not done so and wish to participate, download the free ParticipACTION app or visit
https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/programs/community-challenge. All District residents and community organizations are eligible to track active minutes and contribute to Summerland’s total active minutes.
On Sunday, June 13, the Aquatic Centre is hosting two free Family Swims. Registration opens June 7 at 8 am; pre-registration is required. Family Swim times are from 1:30 to 2:30 pm and from 2:45 to 3:45 pm. Don’t forget to track your active minutes!
However you are active—gardening, dancing, riding or hiking our mountain trails, skating at the Summerland Skatepark or swimming (in the Lake, if you’re brave)—track your active minutes in the ParticipACTION mobile app.
Every move counts and every minute counts. Visit summerland.ca/parks-recreation/community-events for more details.
Earth Week and Climate Action
By Mayor Boot
Happy Earth Day, Summerland!
Earth Day is observed by more than 1 billion people each year from 190+ countries. It is a day of action to change human behaviour and create global, national and local policy changes. First observed by Americans in 1970, the fight for a clean environment continues with increasing urgency, as the ravages of climate change become more and more apparent every day.
In Summerland, we celebrate more than Earth Day—we celebrate Earth Week. This year, the 15th annual, Summerland’s Earth Week Celebration runs from April 19 – 25 and is full of COVID-friendly activities for all ages.
Details are on the District of Summerland webpage: www.summerland.ca/earthweek. Highlights include:
Earth Week Family Bingo (All week): Complete as many Bingo items as possible on the Earth Week Bingo Card and be entered to win great prizes! You can download your bingo card beginning April 19, or drop by the Summerland Aquatic Centre for a paper version.
Earth Week Film Series (All week): Award-winning films available to stream from the comfort of your own home.
Clean Air Partnership Webinar (April 21, 11am): Summerland will be featured in this webinar exploring how local governments can leverage green power to benefit their communities.
Community Planting Days (April 23 and 25, 10am to 1pm): Plant native trees and shrubs to create a dryland, natural habitat around the perimeter of the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
One-Day Recycling Depot (April 24, 8am to 3pm): Bring your glass jars/non-refundable bottles, styrofoam, plastic bags and overwrap, other flexible plastic packaging, residential batteries and lightbulbs, electronics, TV’s and small appliances to the Summerland Arena Recycling Compound and help us keep recyclables out of our landfill.
Electric vehicle (EV) Education (any time) EV ownership is rising in B.C. and all levels of government are supporting this clean-energy technology as drivers choose to go electric for affordability, lifestyle, and reducing their carbon footprint. Visit www.summerland.ca/evcharging to learn about driving an electric vehicle, Summerland’s EV charging network, read stories from local EV vehicle owners, and much more.
Well beyond a single week each year, Council and staff are committed to climate action.
The first Climate Action Plan was created in 2011 and, in 2016, Council made the decision to hire a full-time Sustainability/Alternative Energy Coordinator who advances climate action initiatives and dedicated 0.001% of annual operating expenses to greenhouse gas emissions reductions projects.
The Coordinator’s work falls under three themes of Council’s 2019-2022 Strategic Priorities: Infrastructure Investment, Community Resilience and Alternative Energy. Some initiatives include:
- Completed Summerland's Community Energy & Emissions Reduction Plan (February 2020) and Corporate Energy & Emissions Management Plan (March 2021), following consultation with key stakeholders, staff, community members, Council, and Simon Fraser University's Adaptation to Climate Change Team. The Community Energy Association assisted in developing the plans; the work was funded by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Fortis BC.
- Signed on to the BC Climate Action Charter and, in 2018, recognized as a Level 3 (of four Levels) Climate Leader.
As one of only five municipalities in the province that own their electric utility, Summerland is uniquely positioned to be able to generate power within the District.
- Partnered in 2018 with the Solar Now organization to install solar arrays on the Arts and Cultural Centre and municipal hall. Thanks to generous matching funding from the North Growth Foundation, these buildings will have a combined total of over 22 kW of solar arrays, producing almost 30,000 kWh of power each year.
- Modernized the Distributed Generation Resources Interconnection Program ("net-metering") that provides residents and businesses with tools to maximize their investment in renewable energy.
- Work continues on the Integrated Solar Project—expected to be fully operational late in 2023.
If you wish to receive updates on Summerland’s climate action initiatives, please email [email protected] to have your name added to the mailing list.
By Mayor Boot
Last week Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a modest easing of pandemic restrictions. With the vaccination roll-out underway and warmer days heralding spring, we have much to be grateful for.
Over the next many months as we slowly, but steadily, return to some semblance of pre-pandemic life, let’s remember that local business owners and their staff are counting on us to continue to support them.
Following several months of closure last spring, the majority of Summerland businesses--hair and nail salons/barbers, dentists and other professional services, retailers and eateries, banking institutions, visitor/tourist accommodators, tasting rooms and farmers’ markets—have, at least in some fashion, reopened.
Reopening has been done at considerable financial expense and, at least in some instances, with substantial anxiety and concern for staff and personal safety and the safety of business patrons.
Business plans likely did not account for lost income (a pandemic is typically not a named peril in a business interruption insurance clause), staff pandemic plan training, or purchases of personal protection equipment or sanitizers. Expenses related to additional signage and Plexiglas barriers, or recruiting and training costs for new staff to replace those who had to seek employment elsewhere were probably not planned for either.
So, business owners may not only be experiencing personal mental or emotional health impacts, but also carry worries about unforeseen business expenses, particularly when their company supplies the sole source of household income.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the business sector, of course. Several winery owners had excellent sales in spite of the long-term closing of tasting rooms; some local accommodators experienced a similarly strong year, as did those in the construction industry.
Most business owners quickly offered different ways of serving customers while observing the public health orders. Restaurants went online for takeout service; curbside pick up, delivery to your parked vehicle or direct shipping was made available; opening of outdoor, properly distanced spaces; and offering services by phone or web conferencing. Business to business (B2B) support and collaboration appears to have increased, as well as business (and individual) donations to the Summerland Food Bank. These are but a few examples of the tenacity, flexibility and innovation of Summerland business owners.
Council approved a number of initiatives to help ease the burden on businesses as a whole. For example, last July and August commercial and industrial ratepayers received a 25% reduction in their water rates; agricultural users (yes, agriculture is at least part of their livelihood) received this reduction for the entire irrigation season. Most recently, Council has waived District of Summerland business licence fees for 2021.
Not only did travel restrictions have a significant impact on the arrival of critical temporary agricultural foreign workers, housing migrant workers who were able to meet stringent health regulations had difficulty finding shelter upon arrival. District staff worked with the Province to set aside a number of spaces in the Peach Orchard Campground (which is publicly owned) to temporarily house agricultural workers in a safe environment. (The Province covered 100% of the costs.) The District is looking at continued support for 2021 for domestic temporary agricultural workers.
One of Council’s six strategic priorities is Downtown Vibrancy. This priority includes the development of a Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. The call for volunteers for the Task Force has been completed and the work (expected to take up to 18 months) is underway. The Task Force’s objectives include creating actionable projects and policies for implementation that will provide direction and guidance for staff in the preparation of the Downtown Neighbourhood Action Plan.
Just as essential retailers and services supported our wellbeing during even the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown, as we move into vaccinations and some lifting of restrictions let’s show our gratitude to the staff and business owners that have kept our local economy alive.
Time to pay it forward, Summerland...please Shop Local.
Council Reaffirms Commitment to Solar + Battery Project
By Mayor Boot
Summerland is one of only five municipalities in the entire province that owns their electric utility. Penticton, Nelson, New Westminster and Grand Forks also benefit from public-owned electric utilities.
The District buys electricity from Fortis then, using public infrastructure, distributes the power to Summerland ratepayers.
Early in the first year of this term, Council adopted their Strategic Priorities for 2019-2022. The six key themes of this plan are downtown vibrancy, infrastructure investment, good governance, active lifestyles, alternative energy and community resiliency. Most of Council’s priorities fall within more than one of these themes.
The integrated solar + battery storage project falls primarily under both alternative energy and infrastructure investment. It is an alternative energy project in that it will produce electricity, that is, the District will not be purchasing it from Fortis. The project is also an investment in the electric utility infrastructure and will not only increase the District-owned assets, but provide revenue.
Examples of other strategic projects and initiatives falling under the alternative energy theme include the ongoing implementation of the Community Climate Action Plan, the Corporate Climate Action Plan (first draft presented February 22, 2021) and the Community Energy Strategy. Council has also approved an updated distributed generation (net metering) program that allows Summerland electric utility resident customers to generate their own electricity through a renewable energy source. Participants are able to completely offset their annual electric consumption; the District purchases, at the wholesale rate, any excess energy which is put back onto the grid.
A second example of infrastructure investment related to the electric utility is the voltage conversion project—an initiative to address future and growing electric load requirements and improve the reliability of Summerland’s public-owned electrical distribution system (this project is subject to the District’s successful receipt of grant funding).
The first draft of the Community Energy Strategy—a comprehensive report including recommendations on how to get the most out of the District’s electric utility—will be before Council by early spring.
The integrated solar + battery storage has been a matter of some discussion over the past year and there has been considerable civic engagement on both sides of the matter, both for and against, on topics from the cost to the need to the location to the risks and benefits.
However, at the February 22, 2021 meeting, Councillor Carlson brought forward a Notice of Motion asking “that Council reaffirms the commitment to complete the integrated solar + battery storage project in its chosen location”. After a lively discussion, the vote of Council remained the same: a majority 4-3 decision. This vote provides assurance to District staff to continue with the process that is now in the site preparation, design and procurement stage.
Congratulations to Kristi Leardo on her new-ish (July 2020) venture: Bees Knees Yarn Shop on Main Street. Ms. Leardo was featured in a national newspaper article about entrepreneurs who have opened during the pandemic. Well done Kristi!
Summerland was recently named one of “12 great places in B.C. for working remotely” in a magazine focused on stories about smaller communities, homes and living.
Pickleball...Tennis...Dog Parks—Oh My!?
By Mayor Boot
In 2017 District of Summerland recreation staff and the Parks and Recreation Commission began the comprehensive process of developing a new Parks and Recreation Master Plan—a document that assists Council and staff in making informed decisions on the future direction of recreation facilities, parks and open spaces in Summerland.
The District then engaged Lees & Associates to prepare a draft Master Plan. After updating the draft plan to include valued input and feedback received from several months of community engagement, on June 25, 2018 Council adopted the final plan.
Based on the level of engagement, is is clear that active, healthy lifestyles are important to Summerland residents and visitors. Physical activity and healthy lifestyles are also important to Council as we believe recreational opportunities are a key piece to making Summerland an even better place to live. (“Active Lifestyles” is one of the six themes in our 2019-2022 Strategic Priorities.)
Although District-owned recreational facilities and some activities were suspended for a period of time due to COVID-19, staff has made the necessary operational adjustments to ensure residents and visitors can use these facilities safely. Lakeshore pathways and Summerland’s trails network remained open throughout 2020 to encourage physical activity and the mental and emotional benefits associated with exercise and being out of doors.
Many recommendations on how the District of Summerland could introduce, improve or expand recreational programming and facilities (both indoors and outdoors) are made in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. These include three outdoor recreational spaces: pickleball courts, tennis courts and off-leash dog parks. While all of these amenities currently exist in Summerland, in 2020 Council agreed to allocate budget funds to explore how and where these recommendations could be realized. We also accepted staff’s recommendation to combine the work of identifying locations for pickleball and tennis courts and an off-leash dog park. This is because public-owned land needs to be identified for each activity and the search could not exclude or diminish the need of any of the three recreational activities.
Over the course of 2019 and 2020, decisions were made by Council on recommendations that came forward from staff, again after seeking input from Summerland residents. A location for a third off-leash dog area (one currently exists at the municipality’s Peach Orchard Beach and at the BC Parks’ Sunoka Beach) has proven to be more challenging than the solution to increasing numbers of courts for tennis and pickleball players.
Again, due to COVID-19 the District’s 2020 implementation plans were slowed, but on January 19, 2021 Council gave preliminary approval (subject to three readings and final approval) to the District’s 2021 - 2025 General Capital Budget. It includes 2021 funding for the geotechnical work to ensure the feasibility of constructing a new tennis court on the Lakeshore Racquets Club site (on property leased from the Province); converting one multi-use court to four pickleball courts at Peach Orchard Campground (a municipal campground); and exploring the opportunity of a fenced off-leash dog park at the Fosbery Road or Dale Meadows Park location.
Yes, it has taken compromise (thank you for that) and patience, but the District is committed to getting these new recreational facilities underway. District staff continues to operate under the provincial health directives and will continue to ensure we—and our furry friends—are safe as we pursue active lifestyles.
By Mayor Boot - February 4, 2021
A term that is increasingly used by Council and staff at the District of Summerland is “resilience”. In fact, one of the six themes of the District’s 2019-2022 Strategic Priorities is Community Resilience: “Utilizing resources to create and adapt programs and services that support a vibrant and livable community.”
Community resilience can also be defined as “the ability of a community to absorb disturbance and still retain basic function and structure” (resilience.org). Disturbances might include impacts to any—or all—of the three inter-connected aspects of sustainability: economic, environmental and social.
For example, consider how both the changing climate and the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impact all three aspects of sustainability. (Early days of the health crisis may have had a positive affect on the environment as millions of people stopped driving to work, but what is the negative environmental impact of the disposal of billions of masks?)
Note that it takes a community to build resilience—an ongoing process that sometimes requires fundamental changes. So, while the District’s role is to intentionally guide Summerland’s process of adaptation, the power to envision the future of our community (including for future generations) lies in community members.
Healthy citizens—those that live in a vibrant and livable community—are resilient citizens who, in turn, create a healthy and resilient community.
Over the last year, Council and District staff have undertaken several initiatives to build resilience for the challenges that lie ahead.
1. Recognizing the continued impact of COVID-19 on Summerland residents, Council—with strategic use of the COVID-10 Safe Restart Grant—was able to keep the proposed property tax increase to 1.65%. Because of the significant impacts on District revenues from COVID, this could not have been accomplished without the District’s determined senior management team who reduced the $1.4M budget deficit to just over one-tenth that amount without reducing service levels or compromising either Council or operational priorities.
In addition to the Historical Recapture approach (recouping operational dollars spent or revenue lost in 2020), Council took a Forward Thinking (Building Resilience) approach to Safe Restart Grant spending. For example, because the District is anticipating future budget pressures, such as increased costs, Council has ensured that over $1M of the Grant remains unallocated. Further, as in 2019 and 2020, Council has directed money to our strategic reserves to help fund future infrastructure upgrades or replacements.
2. Like only four other B.C. municipalities, Summerland’s owns its electric utility. This means the District buys electricity at a wholesale cost and uses publicly-owned infrastructure (power poles, transformers, lines, etc.) to distribute electricity to Summerland users. A number of alternative energy initiatives were started, completed or saw progression in 2020 including: receipt of grant funding to install an additional 22 electric vehicle charging stations (including three fast chargers); solar panels installed on municipal hall; a location selection for the solar + battery storage project plus grant funding to remediate a brownfield site; and an electric Zamboni replaced one powered by propane in the District’s fleet.
Council is expecting to receive the Summerland Energy Strategy from senior staff in the coming months.
The District is building resilience by upgrading our electric and alternate energy infrastructure and exploring the untapped benefits of the District-owned electric utility.
3. District staff estimates, conservatively, that 20-30% of household waste going into the Summerland landfill is organic food waste. Diverting this waste from the landfill to the Summerland Organics Processing Facility—an enclosed facility built on an impermeable surface—positively impacts a number of environmental issues. These include reducing greenhouse gas emissions, leachate and odour (decomposing organic material creates methane gas, liquid runoff, and, well, smells bad!). Bonus and significant benefits from the facility are the production of a high-quality Class “A” compost (a compost with wastewater sludge, while in the same enclosed facility, is produced separately) and the facility will prolong the life of the landfill.
4. All District of Summerland lands are on traditional and territory of the syilx (Okanagan) Peoples, some of which borders Reserve land. Recognizing this opportunity and the strength in partnering in resilience, one of Council’s guiding principles is to strengthen our relationship with the Penticton Indian Band (PIB)/Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) and work on Reconciliation. Although we cannot meet in person again yet, meetings and learnings will continue with the recently-elected Chief and Council of PIB in 2021.
The PIB has written a letter supporting the proposed Summerland Recreation and Health Centre and District staff is working with the ONA and others on the Trout Creek Fish Restoration Project and has supported their application for grant funding. Graham Statt, Summerland’s chief administrative officer, has many years of experience working with First Nations people in his former role with the Alberta Ministry of Indigenous Affairs and he looks forward to meeting and working with the PIB.
Similar to building community resilience, Reconciliation is an ongoing process, is mindful of future generations and, in this case, requires community-to-community involvement.
5. Addressing racism, a social matter, is another objective within Council’s Community Resilience theme as it relates to a livable community. All residents have the right to feel safe in Summerland, whether at home, at school or when out in the community. In July 2020, Council passed a resolution to direct staff to work with local non-profits to develop Conversations About Racism. This work, funded in part by Resilience BC through the South Okanagan Similkameen Respect Network (SOSRN) is one of the initiatives being undertaken by South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (SOICS). Three District representatives attend SOSRN meetings.
6. All residents also deserve the dignity of suitable housing and, although the District is not in the development or construction sector, in January 2020 Council wrote letters of support for two affordable housing projects proposed for downtown Summerland. The Affordable Summerland (2017) report clearly identified the need for a broad range of housing options in Summerland. An increase in stock generally, accompanied by homes that are affordable (rental or market)—particularly when within the fully serviced downtown area—will increase accessibility and, arguably, lower the average cost of housing.
Living in a global health emergency for almost eleven months has shown us that, when necessary, we can pull together as a community. It takes the community to build resilience—to create a vision for the next few decades and generations beyond. And, although it may require compromise or even transformative change, that is the power of the community of Summerland.
Proposed Property Tax
By Mayor Boot - January 21, 2021
On January 13, after a full day presentation, questions and discussion, the District of Summerland Council approved a proposed 2021 property tax rate increase of 1.65%.
Although Council heard the final operational budget presentation on January 13, its content was developed following many, many hours of discussions within the District’s management team: primarily departmental directors, their direct-report managers and the chief administrative officer (CAO).
The work of the management team began back in the summer of 2020 with a review of their respective departmental budget. Each department then developed a 2021 operational budget, which includes the expenses related to new projects and the 2021 completion of projects started in previous years, as well as existing and proposed new staff resources and any contractual obligations (negotiated pay increases, for example).
In early fall 2020, Director of Finance David Svetlichny compiled the operational budgets of each department to get a baseline deficit figure. At that time, this figure was $1.4 M—which would equate to almost a 15.25% tax rate increase. (Based on 2021 B.C. Assessment Authority data, a 1% increase in the District of Summerland property tax rate results in taxation revenue of $91,895.)
Mr. Svetlichny and the CAO had several meetings with each departmental management team to further review their piece of the overall operational budget. The objective of these meetings was to find operational savings, confirm priority work and remove items that could be deferred to future budgets.
Following the meetings with individual departments, the entire senior management team, collectively, reviewed the operational budget looking for efficiencies between departments. They also looked at the proposed new projects, including new staff hires, to determine which of these were best to bring forward as organizational priorities.
By mid-October 2020, the operational budget deficit had been pared down to $356,633.
A Committee of the Whole meeting was held October 28 to reaffirm Council priorities, and to provide preliminary information on the budget pressures. Following Council discussion, the CAO confirmed that Directors would incorporate the direction from the Council discussions into operational budgets for presentation in January 2021.
One week later, Council learned that $2.724 M in COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funding was coming from the Province. The Director of Finance advised that he expected the pandemic would affect District budgets into 2023 and that we should consider cautious allocation of the grant funding (within the eligibility guidelines) and not use it all in 2021. Council accepted the Director of Finance’s recommendation and requested a two-pronged approach be used in allocating this unexpected funding: Historical Recapture and Forward Thinking. Historical Recapture (recouping amounts already spent in 2020) and Forward Thinking (allocating funding based on anticipated future pressures, such as increased costs).
At the January 13 meeting staff presented an operational budget showing a deficit of $149,041—less than 10% of the original $1.4 M deficit—and a 1.65% tax rate increase to cover the substantial reduction in the deficit.
In addition to the significant efforts of staff and Council to reduce the potential tax increase, this relatively low rate can be attributed to two main factors: The COVID-19 Safe Restart funds and the new construction revenue, both of which are allocated to the general fund (which, in turn, funds the operational budget).
A total of $1,436,239 of eligible allocations are covered by the Restart Grant, as follows:
Historical Recapture Approach
2020 Operational Fund $891,788
Forward Thinking Approach
2021 Operational Fund $309,451
2021 Capital Fund $235,000
Without the Restart Grant, the District of Summerland would be facing an extremely challenging fiscal situation well beyond the 2021 fiscal year. While vaccinations have begun in B.C., as mentioned previously it will be some time before pre-COVID revenue levels return. Therefore, Council has chosen to leave $1,287,761 of the grant unallocated at this time.
Although not nearly as substantial as the Safe Restart Grant dollars, the District logged an additional $132,500 in new construction revenue in 2021. This amount, equivalent to a 1.44% tax increase, is additional taxation revenue generated from new construction in the prior year.
What does this all mean to Summerland residential property owners?
The combined utility rate increases approved in December 2020 and the proposed property tax increase of 1.65% results in an additional $13.22 monthly charge ($154 annually). These increases are based on BC Assessment Authority’s 2021 average Summerland house value of $591,790.
Year End Review
By Mayor Boot - January 7, 2021
“What we are doing is working, but we cannot let up now.” ~ Dr. Bonnie Henry, December 23, 2020
Words of caution from a woman whose name is well recognized by British Columbians as we end this very unusual and disquieting year.
If ever there was a year when plans changed, this was it. Life went on as usual…until it didn’t.
To varying degrees, since roughly mid-March, we have faced limited in-person contact with our families (especially older members), our friends, and our communities. Households and businesses, again with varying degrees, have faced decreases in income or revenue. I would be surprised to hear that people and business owners accounted for a pandemic in their household budget or business plans.
At the District, we certainly did not factor in a pandemic as we worked through hours and hours of discussions and decisions leading up to the budget open house on February 12. Who would have expected that, a month later we would be in a province-wide state of emergency and the ensuing lockdown? Or, that the following month Council would cut almost $1.5 M in operational expenses from the 2020 budget to provide some financial support to Summerland residents.
Fortunately, and surprisingly, in early November the District of Summerland received a COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant of $2,724,000 to help offset “increased operating costs and lower revenue” due to the coronavirus. Recognizing that the impact of COVID-19 on District revenue will be felt beyond 2021, Council will make every effort to be strategic and fiscally prudent as we move into capital and operational budget discussions beginning next week.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the District of Summerland completed many projects in 2020 and many other initiatives are underway. Highlights include:
- Solar array + battery storage. A parcel of District-owned land on the toe of Cartwright Mountain was selected as the location for this project.
- An increase in housing stock. Most notably, completion of Hillcrest Terrace, an 88-unit market rental building in the downtown core; 24 luxury condos and commercial space topped with additional condos on Lakeshore Drive; 20 townhomes under construction along Trout Creek on the east side of Highway 97; approximately 146 lots in the Hunters Hill housing development. [The Hunters Hill Team and the District of Summerland were co-awarded a Silver Okanagan Housing Award of Excellence by the Canadian Home Builders Association for “leadership in fostering cooperation between public and private sectors in addressing housing issues”.]
- Affordable Housing Forum. This two-day event had to be cancelled due to COVID, but affordable housing projects are expected to be underway in 2021, including a 62-unit development on the former RCMP site.
- ●Giant’s Head Trails Redevelopment. The first two of four phases were completed in 2020 and a grant application has been submitted for the final two phases. This is a joint initiative between the District and the Summerland Rotary Club.
- Racism. Council passed a resolution to have staff work with local non-profit organizations to develop a series of Conversations Against Racism. This work is underway; Summerland’s new chief administrative officer will continue to collaborate with interested agencies and individuals.
- Organics Processing Facility. In late 2019, the District was awarded a $1.581 M grant for this facility which will be located at the Summerland Landfill. The design work is underway; expected completion is early 2022.
- Road Infrastructure. Segments of Quinpool Road (and replacement of a watermain), Doherty Avenue/Bathville Road and North Victoria were reconstructed and repaved.
- Locations for off-leash dog park, and tennis and pickleball courts. Identified as a need in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan (2019), locations for new and refurbished courts have been selected; the off-leash dog park location is expected to be determined in early Spring 2021.
- Electric fleet. In keeping with sustainable practices, Council has asked that electric vehicles be considered when District fleet vehicles are replaced. This fall, the District procured an electric Zamboni to replace the aged-out, propane equipment.
- EV charging stations. Installation of 22 grant-funded EV charging stations (an additional 16 Level 2 and six Level 3 stations) began in 2020 and will be completed in the spring of 2021. The District also had a solar array installed on municipal hall in 2020.
- Proposed Summerland Recreation and Health Centre. Based on the first round of engagement, project consultants have identified both the core space and potential secondary spaces. The Needs Assessment Report is expected to be finalized in late January; an online survey is open for your input until January 3. Click the link on the Community Updates section of the District’s home page. (summerland.ca)
- South Okanagan Agricultural Food Hub. The business plan is complete, but the project has been put on hold pending the potential next intake of grant funding.
- Council hired Graham Statt to replace Anthony Haddad as chief administrative officer after he resigned to take on a new role with the City of Penticton. Mr. Statt brings many years of leadership and management experience and Council and staff are looking forward to having him join the team on January 4, 2021.
Much has been written about the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the systematic and systemic social injustice and inequities that have been brought to light over the last many months. Fortunately, we have seen how communities can work together when we feel threatened or imperiled and how taxpayer dollars can be redirected to address a crisis.
Senior levels of government appear to be listening to the calls to set aside the tried-but-no-longer-working methods of rebuilding. I hope that intentional efforts, sincere commitments—and the requisite funding—will be directed to creating a sustainable, resilient, and equitable home for all British Columbians. Our children and future generations are depending on us.
As we enter a New Year, we have much to be grateful for. On behalf of Council and District of Summerland management and staff, warm wishes for a Happy New Year. May it be joyful and bright…and hopeful.
Mayor's Minute - April 16, 2020
Communication—“a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviour”—is an integral part of the business of local government (merriam-webster.com).
These unsettling and uncertain times call for an elevated level of clear, consistent and factual communication.
The District of Summerland communication strategy during this public health emergency consists of two separate, but connected, segments: 1) collaboration with other local governments and the Province, and 2) Summerland-centric.
Crossing both segments is the range of media used to deliver and receive communication. This includes legacy media (television, newspaper and radio) and online media platforms, for example online news, websites and social media.
From the announcement of the first cases of the coronavirus in British Columbia by provincial authorities (and American Sign Language interpreter Nigel Howard), District staff have regularly liaised with their colleagues at the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS)and with Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) to discuss matters related to the pandemic.
Region-wide communication creates efficiencies and capacity. This collaborative approach is best practice for a number of reasons including providing:
- harmonized actions across the regional district (for example, closing recreational facilities and assets or allowing passive use of parks and beaches to continue);
- a single, direct channel for information to flow between local and provincial government senior management;
- coordinated planning and preparing for seasonal or emergent events (for example freshet and wildland fires);
- a secure environment to raise challenges and discuss the merits or faults of solutions;
- a forum to recognize successes and discuss the worthiness or weaknesses of new ideas.
Collaboration is also occurring regularly between the chair, the six municipal mayors and the seven chief administrative officers in the RDOS. Additionally, we have weekly calls with the provincial ministries, usually Minister Robinson, Municipal Affairs and Housing, Parliamentary Secretary Jen Rice, EMBC and their respective senior staff. Again, this regular and consistent communication provides a way to exchange factual, real-time information and ask questions specific to concerns local government leaders see in their respective communities.
To date, I have heard nothing but professionalism and respect between levels of government, whether participants are elected officials or senior management. Partisanship has stepped aside for, in my opinion, the betterment of all British Columbians.
The second segment of our communication strategy is centred on the residents of Summerland. This communication includes updates on the District of Summerland website (Summerland.ca), media releases, media interviews, this Mayor’s Minute column and social media posts (primarily Facebook).
Generally, its still business as usual, that is, our strategy has not changed under the provincial state of emergency. However, there is one addition to note. I am writing a daily Mayor’s Message post for the District’s Facebook page (facebook.com/SummerlandBC). Sometimes the message is an example of what I’m doing to combat stress, others are shout outs to local businesses and how they are adapting, still others are thanks to residents who are doing their part to flatten the curve or celebrating our frontline and essential workers. Occasionally it is a reminder, with links to appropriate agencies, to practise physical (social) distancing or other provincial directives when out and about.
As we have from the outset, the District will continue to follow the lead and adhere to the orders of the B.C. health experts, namely Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. Especially in the early days, information about the spread of the coronavirus and how the Province was addressing it changed rapidly. Thankfully, a constant in the provincial briefings has been the calm yet empathic delivery of difficult very sad and difficult news.
The overwhelming majority of British Columbians have never been through a public health emergency: This is new ground for us all. We are all this together and I’d like to close with the assurance that we can all share the same goal—get through the first round of this pandemic and focus on getting back to “normal”, whatever that might look and whenever that might be.
Be safe and continued health.
Mayor's Minute - March 26, 2020
We can all agree that these are unusual and unsettling times.
On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a name for the new coronavirus disease: COVID-19.
More recently, we (humanity) have heard a number of other terms related to COVID-19 including, and perhaps most importantly, self-isolation and social distancing.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control website (BCCDC.ca) carries up-to-date information on the coronavirus. According to the BCCDC, self-isolation is defined as “staying home and not going to work or school and monitoring for symptoms for 14 days”.
Limiting close contact with others is the best way to slow the spread of the virus. Again from BCCDC.ca: “There are many way to practice social distancing:
- Limit activities outside your home.
- Use virtual options to connect with others.
- If you are out in public, try to keep two metres between yourself and others.
- Keep your hands at your side when possible.
- Stay at home when you are sick.
- Cough into your elbow or sleeve.
- Avoid social activities in large gatherings.”
During the flooding and wildland fires in 2017 and 2018, local and provincial governments gained some valuable learnings in terms of emergency management. Two of the many lessons that are now considered best practice are: collaboration with other local governments, regional health authority and the Province; and consistency in communications and messaging.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a unique situation and one that is changing very rapidly, but this is how the team approach to address the public health emergency looks for the District of Summerland.
Senior management (which includes emergency and public safety staff) meet daily, as do (by virtual means) the Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) and emergency management staff of the District, City of Penticton and Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen. This latter group also has a daily conference call with Emergency Management B.C. (EMBC) to hear the Province’s latest recommendations or directives. The situation is rapidly changing
All of the decisions made by emergency management staff are made after careful consideration of the latest information coming from provincial and federal public/medical health officers. This includes closure plans such as municipal facilities that provide essential services (fire hall, water and sewage treatment plants, city hall, for example) or recreational facilities.
Working in collaboration with partners provides the opportunity to not only make informed decisions, but also allows coordinated responses and consistent communications. In other words, although local government partners issue their own media releases, the responses to COVID-19 and messaging aligns between them.
Returning now to social distancing. It is up to every single one of us to change our daily routines and behaviours. We are not living in routine times and normal behaviours are not acceptable. We know what we must do.
Social distancing also applies to businesses and has been particularly hard on small and medium-sized businesses and those that are relatively new. Restaurants, wineries, coffee shops, pubs, gyms, retail stores, those that offer personal hands-on services such as nail and hair salons, have either closed indefinitely or dramatically changed how they do business with their customers.
Business owners may be feeling a double hit from COVID-19: The worry over business and household financial issues plus the distress of having to close lay-off their employees.
Where possible, and if you are able, please support our local businesses. If take-out or delivery is available from your restaurant—use it. Some businesses offer gift cards that you can purchase now for use at a later time.
Having had five forums/symposiums/conventions and countless events either cancelled or postponed, I am suddenly finding a lot of unexpected free time. I am taking our dog for long walks in Conkle Mountain Park; preparing the ornamental and food gardens for another season; relearning how to knit; spending more time playing the piano; baking bread again and generally slowing down and appreciating being a Canadian. Best of all, I am hearing from my sons (in Victoria and near Toronto) more often than usual.
I realize that although life feels surreal, I have it easy; that—for any number of reasons—COVID-19 is very difficult for some in our community. The most vulnerable populations suffer the most in times of sudden change, whether it be extreme weather events, civil unrest, economic collapse or, like now, a global pandemic. For some, COVID-19 is more than unusual and unsettling: It is a living nightmare.
For these folks in particular, I hope there is comfort in the fact that we are all in this together.
Know that a single story of greed or selfishness is overwhelmed by hundreds of examples of compassion and kindness.
It may be that we will all have a defined split in our lived experience: Pre-Pandemic and Post-Pandemic. May the Post-Pandemic period, whatever that looks like, be a time of continued compassion, caring and connecting.
Stay safe. Stay healthy.
“Let’s all lean into our humanity.” —Charles Marohn, Founder and President of Strong Towns
Mayor's Minute - March 12, 2020
On Monday morning I attended an announcement by MLA Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forest, Lands and Natural Resources Operations and Rural Development (FLINRORD). MLA Kahlon announced that almost $8.7 million is available province-wide through the Community Resiliency Investment Program (CRIP). Eighty-nine local governments and First Nations in B.C. are receiving the grant funding for community wildfire protection, including $140,000 to the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) and $150,000 to the Penticton Indian Band (PIB).
Initially, the Community Resiliency Investment Program required grant applicants to put forward a percentage of funds, but the program is now funded 100% through the provincial government.
You may have noticed that this grant funding announcement did not include the District of Summerland. However, the grants allocated to both the RDOS and the PIB indirectly provide benefits to Summerland.
While Summerland sits on the unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan People that they share with us, a portion of Penticton Indian Band Reserve lands border the District of Summerland. As Chief Chad Eneas stated at the announcement, “Fuel management supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests, as well as ensure they can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.” Wildland fires know no boundaries: The work the PIB undertakes will also protect the outer reaches of the District of Summerland.
The same applies to the upcoming work of the RDOS, although the activities for which they have received funding include education, development, cross-training and FireSmart activities for private land. The District of Summerland is part of the RDOS and, more specifically, Area F—which includes Faulder and Meadow Valley west of Summerland—have been impacted by wildland fire in the last three years.
The District of Summerland has not been left out of CRIP funding. In the fall of 2019, our Fire Department applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the program. This funding was allocated for fuel mitigation (in the Deer Ridge subdivision located in an interface area); an update of our 2011 Community Wildfire Protection Plan; and working with three Summerland neighbourhoods to reach FireSmart Community status, a certification program of FireSmart Canada.
One other use of the funding was a community FireSmart Wildfire Preparedness session, held last Thursday, March 5, at Centre Stage. The session was well-attended with a robust Q&A session following presentations by host Frontline Operations Group, Summerland Fire Chief Glenn Noble, local ecologist Don Gayton, fire scientist Dr. Kerry Anderson and Brandy Mazlowski, a consultant working with Frontline Operations.
The presentations included the history of fire management and fire ecology. Traditional fuel management “supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests,” said Chief Eneas at Monday’s announcement, “as well as ensures they (forests) can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.” This is in stark contrast to the fire suppression or fire exclusion policies of recent practise although these policies are now being adapted to the current reality of unprecedented wildland fires.
Fire behaviour;, the fuel management work recently completed by the Summerland Fire Departmen;, and how to FireSmart your property was also presented at the Preparedness event. One Summerland neighbourhood has received FireSmart certification and two more have been selected—all three neighbourhoods are in interface areas, that is, residences and private properties border or are within a forested area.
Session participants received the FireSmart Begins at Home Manual which provides information on how to reduce the potential impacts of a wildland fire on private property. The manual includes a FireSmart Assessment to help homeowners determine the level of risk from wildland fires as well as a Last-Minute Checklist on protecting your home and property should you be evacuated. We also received a copy of the FireSmart Guide to Landscaping that outlines the three FireSmart Priority Zones and how to choose appropriate plants (low water requirements and fire resistant) and surface covers (inorganic mulches, for the most part).
I feel it is important to state that community preparedness for wildland fire (or any potential emergency) requires community participation. Both the education and the FireSmart components of the Community Resiliency Investment Program funding granted to the RDOS and (earlier) the District of Summerland funding are geared to assisting with that participation. I encourage you to participate in an education session when the opportunity arises.
Mayor's Minute - February 27, 2020
The recent release of Climate Projections for the Okanagan Region (2020) has been reported in Valley media over the last couple of weeks. The published work is a collaboration between the three Okanagan Regional Districts and Pinna Sustainability, in partnership with Natural Resources Canada and the Okanagan Basin Water Board, and with participation from almost 90 stakeholders in the region.
The report examines a number of possible future scenarios based on historic and projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to predict climate change in the 2050s and 2080s. In short, we can expect warmer temperatures year-round, with summers getting considerably hotter. We can also expect increased precipitation throughout the year, except in summer, and rain events will be more severe.
Further, the growing season will increase from about 5.5 months to almost 7 months by the 2050s, and almost 8 months by the 2080s. This longer growing season is likely to bring some challenges, particularly in terms of water over the drier summer months.
It is important to note that, as always, weather will vary annually and seasonally: Some years will have more days above 30°C than others—some years will record much more rainfall. The report provides climate projections, meaning trends over a 30-year period. There will continue to be variability in weather aspects (temperature, precipitation, wind, cloud cover, for example), that will bring “unusual weather and more extreme weather events” (p. 7).
Climate action can be defined as actively reducing GHG emissions and strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to the impacts of a changing climate. In other words, reducing the level of carbon dioxide (roughly 75% of GHGs) in our atmosphere, and making our community better able to withstand and adapt to events resulting from a changing climate.
What we do now in the way of climate action has long-term effects.
In terms of temperature rise (in BC), this is illustrated in the Climate Projections report in Figure 1: Future Temperatures by Emissions Scenario for BC. The Figure includes three scenarios over the next two decades: 1) minor reductions in GHG emissions (that is, the status quo); 2) reducing emissions by approximately one-half; and 3) reducing emissions substantially and sustaining those reductions (p. 6).
The graphed scenarios show that until 2050, the resulting change in temperature and precipitation regardless of the GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are relatively similar - moderate; however, and this cannot be stressed enough, by the 2080s the change is very dramatic with temperatures rising to near 6°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, which would have extremely negative consequences for human health and wellbeing. In other words, we need to up our game.
As noted in Climate Projections, the overall intent of the project is “to support a local understanding of how climate across the Okanagan is projected to change, and inform regional planning on how to prepare for future climate events. This work is critical to maintaining wellbeing, including robust ecosystems, a thriving community, and a vibrant economy” (p.3).
Planners here (and elsewhere) must design not just to historic climate parameters, but to future climate scenarios. The Canadian engineering industry and the bodies that regulate them are working on establishing new standards to ensure that their approach is proactive and adaptive, rather than reactive. It is much more cost effective to design and construct to long-term scenarios than to merely react to climate shocks and stresses over time.
The District of Summerland’s infrastructure asset management strategy includes considerations regarding the changing climate, as do numerous Master Plans and, of course, the updated Summerland Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan, adopted by Council on February 24, 2020. Staff across departments—recreation, development services, finance, works and utilities, corporate services—have been directed by Council to consider climate impacts in their annual workplans and long-range planning, and Council must continue to adopt policies and priorities that reflect climate considerations.
In my opinion, climate action is more than a problem for levels of government. Action must include a significant improvement in raising the awareness of everyone through education. After all, climate change is affecting us all (those in marginalized communities disproportionately) and will affect today’s youth and future generations even more radically: health-wise, financially and environmentally.
Each of us needs to play a role. As Wangari Maathai said in dirt!: The Movie we can all be hummingbirds. (If you don’t know what that means, search “Wangari Maathai: I will be a hummingbird”.)
Climate Projections for the Okanagan Region can be accessed on the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) website (rdos.bc.ca).
Mayor's Minute - February 12, 2020
I attended the BC Natural Resources Forum held in Prince George the last few days of January. This year, the Forum’s key theme was Strengthening BC's Competitive Advantage.
You may be wondering: Why would the mayor of Summerland attend a Forum primarily focused forestry, mining and oil and gas? It’s true that our economy does not rely heavily on these resource industries. However, agricultural land is also a natural resource and our community not only has a rich agricultural history, this sector remains economically important to Summerland.
In late 2019 an invitation to attend the Forum included a tentative agenda that showed the Honourable Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture as a presenter. While I am interested in both mining/mining exploration and forestry—both are occurring on Crown land/Okanagan unceded territory within our community watersheds—I was particularly interested in learning the Province’s thoughts on how BC can strengthen its competitiveness in the agriculture sector.
Unfortunately, Minister Popham was not in attendance. However, Premier John Horgan spoke about B.C.’s agricultural resources in his keynote address, stating: “We all need food. The more we can produce here (in B.C.) the better off we are all going to be. Not just in terms of transportation costs and the impact on climate, but in creating a place where we can count on food that is locally grown and where we are not just feeding ourselves but feeding the local economy on the land in rural British Columbia. Food production and food security is critically important to our wellbeing.”
The Premier also spoke about the importance of agritech (the use of technology and technological innovation in agriculture) and the (now) released Food Security Task Force report The Future of B.C.’s Food System. This 80-page report provides four key recommendations on how B.C. “has an opportunity to build on its position as a leader in protecting the environment and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions”.
Aside from the learning opportunities at this type of event, there is much value in the networking opportunities. For example, at an event for local and provincial elected officials I had the opportunity to speak to three of the five northwest B.C. mayors who, with the Resource Works Society, formed the Resource Municipalities Coalition in 2016.
Admittedly, when I first approached Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman, I expected that our conversation would be solely about the City’s challenges related to oil and gas extraction. While we initially talked about that (one of her concerns is losing local workers to projects in the hope of temporarily securing better pay and opportunities), when I stated my views on agriculture also being a natural resource, she wholeheartedly agreed. In fact, she stated that more than 80% of B.C. grain is grown in the area surrounding Fort St. John.
I found the conversations with Mayor Ackerman and FSJ planning staff, the Mayor of Tumbler Ridge (Keith Bertrand) and the executive directors of the Coalition and the Resource Works Society encouraging. They hope to develop a good relationship with both Indigenous and regional governments in Northern B.C. to strengthen their collective voice.
This is a collaboration that seems to be working. After preliminary discussions with some area elected officials, I reached out to the Resource Municipalities Coalition to ask them to consider exploring a similar Coalition in Southern B.C. (outside of the Lower Mainland).
While we do not have much oil and gas extraction in our region, there are area residents who work in this sector as well as in mining and forestry. Further, this region is rich in agricultural history. In partnership with our Indigenous neighbours, local governments could provide an informed perspective on a sustainable Southern B.C. food system that provides both social and economic benefits while protecting natural assets and ecosystems.
Becoming a world leader in sustainable agriculture through agri-tech and emerging technologies is an ambitious goal but one that, I think, is achievable. I look forward to a day when Canadians can enjoy food security and the social, economic, and environmental benefits of a sustainable food future are enjoyed by Canadians first, that is, before the broader export market.
I look forward to a day when local food systems are a priority and thrive in British Columbia, and when we all enjoy food security and the social, economic, and environmental benefits a sustainable food system provides.
Mayor's Minute - January 31, 2020
In my last Mayor’ Minute (January 16, 2020) I spoke about the budget process getting underway at the District of Summerland, and presented these facts:
- 87% of taxes are from residential ratepayers compared to 0.5% from agriculture;
- 65% of our land base is zoned agriculture; 15% is zoned recreational;
- a 1% mill rate increase = $87,093 in tax revenue;
- the District maintains 150 km of paved roads;
- maintaining current service levels does not mean a 0% mill rate because there are several factors over which Council has no control.
One of these factors is property assessments. Early in January the B.C. Assessment Authority (B.C.A.A.) released general values throughout areas of the province. Although Summerland has received an average market value assessment increase of 2% as of July 1, 2019, that does not automatically mean a 2% increase in property assessment for all Summerland property owners—it is an average. According to B.C.A.A., the average cost for a single detached home in Summerland is $526,000 (up 2% over 2018 assessed values).
As announced last week, the District of Summerland is proposing a 4% property tax increase for 2020. This amount represents 3.12% in operational increases and .88% to be allocated to our Infrastructure Reserve.
Operational increases are for a number of initiatives Council and District staff are proposing this year. Each of the initiatives being brought forward is aligned with Council’s Strategic Priorities. Among other things, the District is:
- hosting an Affordable Housing Forum early in 2020 that will bring together BC Housing, non-profit and market housing developers, local organizations and housing providers. This initiative will build on the findings and recommendations in the 2017 Affordable Summerland Report as well as on Council discussions at UBCM in September 2019. Council has also partnered with the RDOS for grant funding to complete a Housing Needs Assessment.
How will this help? Affordable/attainable housing options in Summerland will provide an opportunity for those not yet in the housing market to become homeowners, thus expanding the range of housing types in the community and increasing the number of residents paying property taxes. While this will not lower the District’s percentage of revenue from residential taxes, it may increase workforce housing and assist young families in getting into market housing.
- continuing to amend and adopt bylaws that densify areas with existing services, particularly in the downtown core (through multi-use zoning) and the immediate surrounding areas (carriage houses, secondary suites, and 2- or 3-lot subdivisions).
How will this help? Multi-use zoning (allowing for a combination of commercial/retail and residential buildings) and zoning for carriage houses, secondary suites and small subdivisions increase the number of people living in the main Summerland area without increasing future operational and capital costs on new infrastructure to accommodate these new builds. Again, this will not lower the District’s percentage of residential tax revenue, but sustainable growth increases the number of contributing property owners.
- developing a Downtown Neighbourhood Plan—with input from residents, business owners and local organizations— that will ensure downtown Summerland meets our population’s current and future needs.
How will this help? Any undertaking, regardless of size, is more likely to succeed when guided by a plan. There are several reasons for this, including that a comprehensive plan lays out clearly defined objectives and opportunities, budget, funding options and phasing timelines. Increasing residential density in the downtown core is good for the area’s businesses and a vibrant downtown is attractive to visitors and fosters business expansion.
- seeking funding from other governments or organizations, whenever possible. The District is also striving to collaborate or partner on initiatives, including grant applications. (For example, the District is Summerland is partnering with the RDOS and some municipal governments on provincial grant applications for regional Housing Needs and Child Care Needs Assessments.) Grants from senior levels of government and others alleviate pressure for revenue from taxes.
How will this help? Council and staff are always looking for ways to address priorities while remaining fiscally responsible. Multi-agency partnerships, such as the proposed Summerland Community Health and Recreation Centre, not only shares the financial costs between organizations, but also satisfies a number of community needs. Again, grants and funding from outside the District alleviate pressure for revenue from taxes.
- working with potential partners on a Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre.
How will this help? This proposed project, being brought forward to the community in February, will provide benefits for the entire community in the areas of child care, recreation and health services. Working collaboratively enhances funding opportunities with senior levels of government, increases livability by filling gaps outside of local government purview, and creates social cohesion and a healthier community.
- pursuing the potential for a Food Innovation and Processing Hub in Summerland.
How will this help? Value-added agriculture (processing, manufacturing, or marketing a raw agricultural value to create a product of increased value) has increasingly be identified as a considerable opportunity in B.C. Establishing a regional (primarily South Okanagan-Similkameen) Hub in Summerland provides significant opportunities for agri-business entrepreneurs and innovators, raises the profile of the community to, potentially, attract outside investment, provides a space for agricultural innovation, and creates good-paying, skilled employment.
Each of these initiatives contributes, in one or many ways, to making Summerland an even better place to live. Budget details and more information on many of the District’s 2020+ projects will be available at the Open House scheduled from 4 pm to 7 pm on Wednesday, February 12. A formal presentation will be made at 5:30pm. The Open house is being held in the banquet hall located on the second floor of the Summerland Arena (8820 Jubilee Road East).
Mayor’s Minute – January 16, 2020
General fund budget discussions began this week at the District of Summerland. Unlike the utility budgets, that are solely concerned with the water, sanitary sewer, and electrical utilities, these discussions cover both operational and capital requirements and requests throughout the organization.
For Council and most of senior staff, the budget sessions culminate with the adoption of both the five-year financial plan bylaw and the annual mill rate. (The mill rate is used with the property assessment to determine the amount each residential property owner pays in property taxes.) Unlike senior levels of government, the budget that the Director of Finance submits to the province must be balanced: Local government budgets cannot show a deficit.
During general fund discussions, Council hears the operational and capital project funding requirements from the various departments—those that are required to reduce risk and those that reflect Council priorities. As one can imagine, there is a healthy level of compromise and negotiation between department managers, the director of finance, and the chief administrative officer well before any proposal comes to Council.
Council, too, must balance the initiatives stemming from strategic priorities with those identified by department heads. As much as we might like to move ahead on any number of projects, sometimes an emergent project may postpone getting them underway.
The District of Summerland has an interesting tax base, one that, while not unique in the province, certainly poses some challenges. Consider these facts:
- 87% of taxes are from residential ratepayers compared to 0.5% from agriculture;
- 65% of our land base is zoned agriculture; 15% is zoned recreational;
- a 1% mill rate increase = $87,093 in tax revenue;
- the District maintains 150 km of paved roads;
- maintaining current service levels does not mean a 0% mill rate (see next paragraph).
Additionally, while adopting the mill rate is ultimately the responsibility of Council, there are several factors that play into the decision over which Council has no control. Examples include the rate of inflation, assessed property values and the aging of District roads and facilities. Local governments are also subject to legislative and contractual financial allocations.
Like all regular meetings of Council, budget discussions are open to the public. While not everyone is able to attend these meetings, the District offers many other ways to stay informed about proposed rates: The District’s newsletter, website (summerland.ca) and Facebook page and through media releases. A schedule of upcoming budget sessions, including those during regular Council meetings (which are recorded) can also be found on the website. Proposed utility rates and the mill rate should not come as a “surprise” to the community. Council and staff feel we are fulfilling our duty to keep you informed on discussions that lead to establishing these rates. Should you feel otherwise (provided you feel you are doing your part to stay up to date), please contact the District with thoughts on how we might improve our communications.
I hope this Mayor’s Minute has not caused you to throw your hands up in despair. Although it may seem like all doom and gloom, I’ve run over the word count (again!) and must split it into two Parts. You should find Part 2 more uplifting as I cover what District of Summerland Council and staff are doing to help keep the mill rate stable.
Mayor’s Minute – December 12, 2019
On Monday, at our last regular meeting of the year, the District of Summerland Council passed first, second and third readings on proposed increases to our water, sewer, and electrical utility rates. The proposal includes five-year annual increases for the water (5%) and sewer (3.5%) utility rates. Council also proposed harmonizing the existing two-tier electrical rate, resulting in an averaged 4.4% rate increase for 2020.
The proposed rates align with three of Council’s 2019-2022 strategic priorities: Good Governance, Community Resilience, and Infrastructure Investment.
Discussions about utilities infrastructure do not, generally, spark a lot of interest or excitement by community members. But why is this so? After all, infrastructure provides the services we expect to receive today and into the future.
These systems deliver clean water to our taps and electricity at the flick of a switch; give us roads to drive on and playground equipment for our children to play on. They take care of our waste—from our toilets, sinks, and showers and garbage and yard waste sent to the landfill—and provide kilometres of trails, bike lanes, and sidewalks for recreation and active transportation.
Admittedly, infrastructure—neither the state of District assets nor the costs of maintenance, upgrades, and replacement, let alone how to pay for them—was not something that was top of my mind either.
At least not until 2015 when, as a member of Council, I started to gain a much fuller understanding of how important infrastructure is to building a safe, healthy, and resilient community. I now have a clear understanding of the state of our infrastructure (yes, it is owned by the community) and how critical frank and objective staff recommendations are to Council’s decision-making.
During two public meetings in November, Council heard from staff about proposed capital projects in 2020 as well as anticipated upgrades or replacements noted in the asset management plan (AMP) for the next five years. Using Council’s strategic priorities as guidance, management identifies projects that are important for delivery of their department services. Part of their work in identifying these projects is referring to documents such as Master Plans and the Asset Management Plan (AMP).
Developing strong and reliable AMPs is a systematic and ongoing process. The District of Summerland started this work in 2017 by creating an inventory of all the infrastructure the District owns, operates and maintains, including all components of the water sewer, and electrical systems. The inventory also includes data on association performance, risks and expenditures over the lifecycle of each components.
Following the creation of a robust inventory, the District formalized the asset management process by adopting an AM Policy and developing an AM Strategy. These key foundational documents with the information and quality data in the AM inventory, guide decision-making by better aligning Council objectives and organizational priorities.
These asset management work completed over the past two years also shows that the District’s estimated infrastructure deficit—for the three utilities alone—is over $85 million. This means that, even though the systems are still in operation, approximately 24% of the infrastructure in these utilities has exceeded its anticipated service life.
While the proposed utility rate increases do not include any operating budget increases, there are many major utility capital projects scheduled for 2020. Further, while efforts have been made over the last five years to increase utility reserves, continued investments are required in order to support existing service levels for the community.
Continued annual reserve increases allows the District to sustainably finance assets into the future. This, in turn, creates community resilience and ensures that the people who live here can continue to expect safe and reliable services without incurring a sharp or unexpected increase in utility rates.
Council will continue infrastructure investment: It’s just Good Governance.
In 2011, the District of Summerland adopted a Community Climate Action Plan. Since then, the District has implemented many climate action initiatives to work towards reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, a significant contributor to the global rise in temperature and extreme weather events becoming more commonplace.
In the last two years alone, the District has successfully lobbied for increased public transit and expanded our active transportation infrastructure (trails and bike lanes); promoted energy efficiency rebates and begun consulting on the BC Energy Step Code; and, through a number of initiatives, is reducing the volume of organic waste going to the landfill. In renewable energy, Summerland is a pioneering community in BC, developing a 1 MW solar PV farm with battery storage, and modernizing our net metering policies to encourage residents to install solar.
Ongoing and innovative investment in community resilience and alternative energy continue to be highlighted in Council’s Strategic Priorities in 2019-2022.
On November 25, after many months of work with the Community Energy Association including a full-day stakeholder workshop and open house, District staff presented a draft update of the Plan to Council. Participants at the February workshop included community members and representatives from many groups, including the Community Climate Action Advisory Committee; Interior Health; BC Transit; FortisBC; Summerland Chamber of Commerce; RDOS; Summerland Environmental Science Group; First Things First Okanagan; Summerland Secondary School; District staff and members of Summerland Council, among others.
Because the Plan focuses primarily on climate mitigation (emissions reduction), to better reflect content its title has been changed to the (Summerland) Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan (CEERP). It is one piece of an in-progress low carbon resiliency (LCR) strategy for the District, which will include measures to adapt to climate change while also reducing GHG emissions.
Feedback on suggested key priority climate actions and GHG emissions reduction targets was collected through a public open house. Residents were also invited to share their ideas on where the District should take a leadership role and how citizens can support climate action in the community. This last statement is critical: the most effective way to reduce GHG emissions is through conservation, that is, use less energy.
Of the possible actions presented at the open house, the highest level of public support was given to:
- Supporting active and assisted transportation
- Expanding organics diversion (from the landfill)
- Increasing urban trees
- Encouraging electric vehicles
- Encouraging solar installations in the community
- Marketing a retrofit program to address energy use in buildings
- Using infrastructure lifecycle costing for new developments (the projected long-term financial impact for maintaining and replacing infrastructure).
Using community and stakeholder feedback and engagement, climate data, best practises, and municipal staff consultation, 26 priority items were identified and are presented in the CEERP. Details, such as timeline, actionable steps, outcome (effort, costs, GHG reductions), the District department responsible for the item, and possible partners or founders are also included in the draft Plan.
The discourse on climate change has almost exclusively been around the environmental impacts of extreme weather events such as floods, landslides, storms, and wildland fires; however, the discussion must include how these events impact human health and wellbeing.
This message was reiterated many times at the 8th annual Livable Cities Forum that staff and I attended in late October. The Forum brought together who are working, through resilience projects, on building better communities.
Climate change strategies also improve physical and mental health. For example, walkable or bikeable communities can reduce obesity and improve mental health. Protecting local agriculture increases access to healthy, local food and reducing air pollutants and improving air quality helps to decrease respiratory illness. Something as simple as planting more trees in urban areas can provide protection from extreme heat, lessening its impact on those with cardiovascular illnesses. Transportation and housing costs are the two largest expenditures for most residents, so creating compact communities with access to public transit—and increasing housing options and density in amenity-rich areas—is key to creating affordability.
The District is hosting an Open House to discuss the draft Community Energy and Emissions Reduction Plan on Wednesday, December 4 from 3 pm to 7 pm. Formal presentations are at 4:30 pm and 6:00 pm. All are welcome to attend, and we look forward to receiving your important feedback.
Mayor's Minute - November 19, 2019
It’s that time again. Budget season.
I’m very pleased to be able to say that Council started our lengthy budget deliberations in early November this year. (In the five years I’ve been on Council with the District of Summerland, this is the first time we’ve begun deliberations before the New Year.)
Of course, when Council begins talking about the 2020 budget, it is only following months of work undertaken by the Director of Finance and the entire senior management team.
Using Council’s strategic priorities as guidance, management identifies projects that are important for delivery of their department services.
For example, Works and Utilities will consider a number of factors as they determine which projects to bring forward to Council during budget discussions. In order to determine priority projects, the management team will first refer to the District’s Asset Management Plan and their Master Plans—Water, Sidewalk, Road, etc.
These guiding documents, particularly the Asset Management Plan, provide reliable information on which components of the District’s $536 million of infrastructure is nearing end of life or requires maintenance or replacement. (As a reminder, infrastructure includes electrical, water and sewer systems; municipal-owned buildings including recreational facilities; roads; parks, sports fields and beaches, etc.)
In determining priorities, departments also have to assess the project’s level of risk; the availability of Human Resources; where the project is in the Five-Year Financial Plan, and so on.
The Parks and Recreation department provides a second example. The Parks and Recreation Master Plan, completed in June 2018, identified the need for a condition assessment of the aquatic centre. The assessment confirmed the 40+-year-old building was at the end of its lifecycle. Seeing this as a community priority, during our strategic planning sessions in January 2019, Council highlighted the replacement of the aquatic centre as a priority.
Since the completion of the condition assessment, there has been discussion on expanding the facility to fulfill what Council perceives as a number of community needs. Before the project can move beyond the concept phase, however, an undertaking of this magnitude requires significant and comprehensive community engagement. So, while community conversations about the aquatic centre was already part of the Parks and Recreation work plan, the project has the potential to be much larger, depending on what the District and potential partners hear from Summerland residents.
Once departments have determined their priorities—both capital and operational—and before they come before Council, they discuss their draft budgets with the Director of Finance. These sessions are very important to the budget process, as the finance director knows the District’s overall financial picture. Department heads present their business cases for their proposed priorities and then, if necessary, will work with the Director of Finance to rework their priorities.
All this preparatory work is done before Council begins our role in the budget process (which began November 5).
Before Council adopts the 2020 Tax Rates Bylaw at the end of April, fourteen more discussions are scheduled in the Financial Plan Timeline. Many of these sessions run three or more hours and are in addition to Regular Council Meetings. All meetings are open to the public.
Two public open houses are being held in addition to the noted discussions: one to introduce the utility budgets and proposed utility rate increases (Tuesday, November 26); and one to present the general fund budgets (i.e., parks, roads, bylaw, etc.) as well introducing the 2020-2024 Financial Plan Bylaw (Wednesday, February 12).
When Council is making decisions on which projects will be included in the Financial Plan—and where in the 2020-2024 timeframe they will scheduled—in addition to the operational aspects of the decision (business case and risk assessment), we must consider two more political aspects: the level of service expected of our citizens, and their willingness to pay.
Unfortunately, the two do not always align. Sometimes citizens are not willing (or not able) to pay for an expected level of service. It is a careful balancing act and Council is required to make the decisions that will benefit the most people in our community.
In the last few weeks I have heard from people in Summerland who are willing to pay more taxes. While I thank you for offering, the District must collect taxes equally (not necessarily, equitably): Tax rates must be consistent for each citizen. (Should you feel very passionate about a particular project, our Director of Finance would welcome a discussion about making a community contribution!)
Budget season. And so it begins...
Mayor's Minute - October 10, 2019
The Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys are blessed with natural landscapes and features that both residents and visitors from afar. Some of these splendours have been enhanced or have become parks to protect habitat from encroaching development.
Summerland is home to several unique geologic features including one that is virtually downtown: Giant’s Head. According to Okanagan Geology South (2011), the mountain is a composite volcanic dome that has been molded several times by glacial ice. In addition to the profile, (best seen from the southern side of the mountain from which it gets its name), Giant’s Head boasts another special bedrock feature: the perfectly formed columnar dacite at the southern base.
A climb to the top of Giant’s Head is rewarded with an astounding 360⁰ view, including Crater Mountain and Summerland’s own Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is “a linear structure of massive vertical spires of volcanic rock” (p. 126).
Like elsewhere in the South Okanagan, Giant’s Head’s climatic conditions, soil type and sloped exposures make much of the mountain favourable to grasslands. This ecosystem provides habitat for a biodiverse biological community, some of which are species at risk.
Healthy grasslands on Giant’s Head also provide socio-economic values including low-impact forms of recreation such as hiking and wildlife observation, a fact well-known by the thousands of annual visitors and locals. (In fact, according to tripadvisor.ca, Giant’s Head Mountain Park is in the top five of Things to Do in Summerland.)
Sadly, grassland areas are sensitive and vulnerable to a number of human-related disturbances, and over the years recreational activities have created some negative environmental impacts on Giant’s Head.
This is one of the main reasons why Council, in partnership with the Summerland Rotary Club, elected to undertake the Giant’s Head Mountain Trails Redevelopment Project in 2017.
Following several months of environmental assessment, a contract was awarded to design the redevelopment in a manner that would best promote rehabilitation of the mountain’s ecosystems; address the needs of various trail users, including Giant’s Head Grind participants; and update the existing amenities.
The associated costs for the four phases necessitated splitting the project into two periods of redevelopment. Phases 1 and 2 included trail improvements, trail decommissioning for erosion control and to restore environmentally sensitive areas, improved guard rails at the top of the mountain, a new trail on the east side, and park entrance improvements. Additional works (finalized at the October 15 Council meeting) include a guard rail along the new retaining wall in the lower parking area; additional fencing on East Trail, removal of a hazard tree, tie down posts for the gate at the entrance to the Park, half of the project signage, and reinstallation of the viewing tubes. (The metal, non-magnifying tubes, direct viewers on the mountaintop to viewpoints of interest. Low-tech to be sure, but fun and popular, nevertheless.)
The budget for these two phases, now nearing completion, was $725,000. The District was successful in a grant application for $435,000 to the (now curtailed) BC Rural Dividend Fund. The Summerland Rotary Club contributed $100,000 and the District allocated $190,000 from Gas Tax Community Works funding. The additional works noted above added $37,000 to the costs and is being funded from the Recreation, Parks and Trails Reserve Account.
The District will look for future funding opportunities, such as grants and partnerships, to complete the final two phases of the Trails Redevelopment Project. This includes the upper portion of the Grind route, remaining signage work, paving the circulation road and pedestrian trails at the upper parking lot, upgrading the washroom at the upper parking lot, and installing a washroom at the entrance to the park.
Although there appears to be some misunderstanding about why certain trails have been decommissioned and some are choosing to ignore or remove barriers, one can already see areas that are successfully recovering from degradation and erosion. The District hopes that signage installation will reduce or eliminate this behaviour and that all Park users—both the species that live there and the human visitors—can enjoy continued safe and shared use of Giant’s Head Mountain Park.
Mayor's Minute - October 8, 2019
This Mayor’s Minute is the second of two about the 2019 Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) Convention held in Vancouver the last week of September. The Convention provides opportunity for elected officials and senior staff to attend educational sessions and workshops on matters pertinent to local government. It also provides a chance to meet one-on-one with provincial ministers and staff on topics specific to Summerland, and to network with colleagues throughout the Province.
Summerland Council met with three provincial cabinet ministers (Education, Municipal Affairs and Housing, and State for Child Care) and the CEO of Interior Health about the Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre proposal. Council requested the meetings to introduce the relevant Ministries to the concept and to gain support in principle for the collaboration.
Representatives from School District 67, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, South Okanagan-Similkameen Division of Family Practice, and M.L.A. Dan Ashton either attended the meetings or provided written support for the proposal.
The next steps are to undertake a robust community engagement process to establish how the proposed Centre can best meet community needs; determine the scope of the project; and explore financial considerations.
The District also met with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy regarding climate change adaption initiatives. We also requested that climate data be released more frequently to assist local governments with climate action planning.
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) met with Council about forming a pilot partnership to help streamline restoration work for private property owners along Eneas Creek. The initiative would see the municipality contracting with a qualified environmental professional (approved by the Province) to organize a coordinated flood mitigation and restoration effort.
At a meeting with staff from the Minister of Agriculture, Council spoke about their proposal to facilitate a regional South Okanagan Food Innovation Hub in Summerland and requested support for funding from the Province. This initiative is a Council priority. Although the District was invited by the Ministry to submit a proposal in early September, the decision was made to use the time before the next intake (early 2020) to solidify commitments from existing partners and seek potential new partnering opportunities.
Related to the Food Innovation Hub, while in Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Haddad and I joined the District’s project manager for an on-site tour of a small food processing facility. It was valuable to have a firsthand look at what the food processing component of the Hub could look like and to hear how the equipment can be adapted to best suit the regional agri-food start-ups and businesses that will use the facility.
Both Councillor Holmes and I are part of the Climate Caucus, an initiative of FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities). During the week of UBCM we were each able to take in a Climate Caucus meeting. This ability to have a ‘tag team’ approach adds further value to Council’s time at the Convention. One could not possibly attend all the offerings, as many are run concurrently. Where possible, Council attended different sessions and will report back to the rest of Council with highlights and takeaways.
As mentioned earlier, there are many networking opportunities at the UBCM Convention: at delegate luncheons, evening receptions, the trade show, and even at coffee breaks during sessions. Very often it is these settings that provide helpful and interesting discussions. For example, although our meeting request with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure was not accepted, I had the chance to speak briefly about Council’s topics with Minister Trevana at an evening reception.
A second example: Early in the week, Councillor Barkwill invited me to an impromptu discussion with developers and facilitators for affordable housing. Our almost two-hour chat has already led to further communication and a significant expression of interest by them to work with the District and other local non-profits.
Thirdly, at the trade show, I learned of new B.C. Healthy Communities Plan H funding that will assist the District in the public engagement component of the proposed Summerland Community Health and Wellness Centre. (Plan H, a Ministry of Health grants program, has also funded a series of presentations undertaken by the Summerland Healthy Living Initiative.)
Personally, the pace of UBCM is exhausting. Maintaining and strengthening new relationships; exploring best practises presented at sessions; and simply processing all the new information is hard work. Like many things, “you get out of it what you put into it” and, speaking on behalf of Council and CAO Haddad, UBCM 2019 was worth every minute.
Mayor's Minute - October 3, 2019
Summerland Council joined local governments and regional districts throughout B.C. in Vancouver last week at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention. This Mayor’s Minute will be the first of two on the 2019 UBCM Convention.
UBCM is an engaging and bustling four-and-one-half days of educational and professional development sessions; meetings with provincial Ministers and staff; voting on resolutions; and networking with colleagues.
The theme of the 2019 Convention was ‘Resiliency and Change’. I think the sub-theme of all elected official conventions of this nature (at least the ten—five each of UBCM and Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA)—that I have attended over the years), could be ‘Connectedness Through Relationships’.
Delegates had numerous opportunities throughout the week to share challenges, accomplishments and best practises with colleagues in other communities. Additionally, the two-day concurrent trade show allowed one-on-one engagement with representatives from companies and funders about the services and grants they offer to local governments. Frankly, I find it difficult to attend everything I would like to take part in, but kudos to the UBCM Executive for ensuring there are options for all delegates regardless of community location, size, or challenges.
As one would expect, the attainable housing and opioid crises were highlighted issues, but this year there were two other topics that were addressed at considerable length: reconciliation and climate change.
Given that last month Council made a commitment to strengthen our relationship with the Penticton Indian Band (through educational, political, cultural and operational activities), the timing could not have been better to begin learning, as a team, how to undertake this long-term commitment.
Councillor Holmes and I attended the full day pre-conference session on financing reconciliation; the entire Council (Councillor Erin Trainer was unable to attend UBCM) and Chief Administrative Officer Anthony Haddad attended a half-day session on Tuesday that included a panel discussion and examples of B.C. communities that have partnered on a variety of projects with their Indigenous neighbours.
As a table officer of SILGA, I was invited to a meeting with Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and his staff. In February 2019 the B.C. Government committed to tabling legislation to implement the framework for reconciliation set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP). If the legislation passes, British Columbia will be the first province in Canada to legislate its endorsement of the Declaration.
Minister Fraser advised that the proposed legislation closely follows federal Bill C-262. It was developed by the Province in consultation with the First Nations Leadership Council, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, and the Indigenous Relations Committee of the UBCM Executive. Minister Fraser assured the SILGA executive and the four SILGA-area students who attended UBCM that an action plan and communication materials will facilitate the anticipated roll-out to local government.
Climate change was also at the forefront during the last week of September, and was the topic of sessions and of several resolutions, many related to climate mitigation and adaptation.
Typically, a vote at UBCM is the third time a resolution is voted on by elected officials. The municipality or regional district where it originates votes at a Council or Board meeting; the local government association delegates vote at their annual spring convention; and UBCM delegates vote at their annual fall convention.
Delegates overwhelmingly passed a resolution “that UBCM call on the Provincial government to end all subsidies to fossil fuel companies and to invest the money instead in climate change mitigation and adaptation activities being undertaken by local governments in a predictable and regularized funding formula”. The resolution also included the call by UBCM, through FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities), to call on the Federal government to do the same.
Time will tell whether this resolution sees affirmation action by the Provincial and/or the Federal governments.
Friday morning, I was invited by Global BC to do a short live segment at their studios in Burnaby about how climate change has impacted Summerland. This was a good start to ClimateStrike 2019 that saw an estimated 100,000 people in Vancouver alone demanding action be taken to address climate change.
The next Mayor’s Minute will continue Summerland Council’s UBCM 2019 week, including my thoughts on Minister and staff meetings and other interesting discussions in and around UBCM.
Mayor's Minute - September 12, 2019
At our September 9 evening Council meeting, the District of Summerland Council ratified our commitment to deepen our relationship with the Penticton Indian Band. After a presentation by staff at the public Committee of the Whole meeting earlier in the day, Council discussed the matter in-depth before voting unanimously to direct staff to apply for Community to Community (C2C) funding to enable a forum between the Penticton Indian Band and the Summerland Council as well as to investigate a number of reconciliation activities (more on this below).
This work began in early January, when Council included First Nations relations as one of the guiding principles in the District’s 2019-2022 Strategic Priorities Plan. I had the opportunity to meeting with Chief Eneas and Band senior staff twice during the spring to begin the discussions and ensure that not only was there a mutual commitment to building a stronger relationship between the two governments, but that the District was approaching the initiative in a manner that was both respectful and appropriate.
In late spring, interim CAO Ron Mattiussi, tasked the District’s Community Development Coordinator with doing the necessary research and communication with the Band to develop the report that Council received on Monday.
Our evening meeting began with a delegation from one of the Summerland members of the Okanagan Circles for Reconciliation and the South Okanagan TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission) Study Group. Summerland Council was called on, as leaders of the community, to “examine the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, in particular those relating to municipal governments, and further, to adopt and implement relative and constructive strategies of acknowledgement and action”.
The delegation spoke specifically about the five (of 94) Calls to Action relevant to local government including #57 which calls on municipal government to provide education to public servants on the history of Indigenous people, including UNDRIP, Indigenous law and Indigenous-Crown relations. “This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism” (TRC of Canada: Calls to Action, 2012, p. 7).
As mentioned earlier, the ratified resolution also directed staff to research potential reconciliation activities. These actions fall into four categories: Education (for Council, Staff, and the Summerland Community); Cultural Activities (for Council, Staff, and the Leadership of Summerland Cultural Organizations); Political Activities (for District and Band Councils); and Operational Work (between District and Band Staff).
What is reconciliation? The TRC defines reconciliation as “an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change” (as cited in Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Volume One: Summary, 2015, p. 16). As discussed by Council, as we work on reconciliation it is important to recognize that the Penticton Indian Band is one of 198 bands in British Columbia: “They each have distinct languages, cultures, economies, capacity, challenges, stories, teachings and world views” (Dispelling Common Myths About Indigenous People’s, 2019, p. 7).
Fortunately, local governments do not have to go it alone on the important work of reconciliation.
The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People’s (UNDRIP, 2007) provides a framework on how to establish and maintain mutually respectful relationships between local and Indigenous governments.
On Monday, September 23, Summerland Council be attending a full-day pre-UBCM conference session called “Financing Reconciliation: Supporting Inclusive Governance in BC”. This session will bring together representatives from First Nations, local government and academia to consider opportunities and next steps for advancing new approaches to financing reconciliation.
The District of Summerland’s next steps include a meeting between senior elected officials and staff of both governments. District staff will also bring a report to Council providing details on the four reconciliation areas, including operational and financial resource requirements, timeline, and draft policy recommendations.
Mayor's Minute - August 29
This past Sunday I returned to Summerland after visiting Toyokoro, Japan, the District of Summerland’s Sister City. The District has had this relationship with Toyokoro for 23 years.
According to Sister City International’s website, a Sister City relationship is “a broad-based, long-term partnership between two cities in two countries”. Sister City organizations “pursue activities and thematic areas that are important to their community including municipal, business, trade, educational, and cultural exchanges and projects” (sistercity.org).
Personally, I was skeptical about the value of our Sister City relationship with Toyokoro (population approximately 3,000), specifically in the areas of business and trade. As it happens, these doubts were realized. Although Toyokoro is similar to Summerland in that agriculture contributes substantially to their economy (even more so than here, in fact), business and trade opportunities between the two communities do not exist.
Toyokoro is located on the island of Hokkaido, the northernmost and second largest island in Japan. It is separated from Honshu, the main island, by Tsugaru Strait; the two islands are connected by an undersea railway. The largest city on Hokkaido is Sapporo, the capital, with a population of almost two million. The Summerland delegation, which included 2019/20 Royalty, spent several days in Sapporo before going to Toyokoro.
The best part of the trip for me was the three-and-a-half days we spent in Toyokoro. The three Royalty stayed with host families, and joined the rest of the delegation (eleven in total) for parts of the tours and events. Among other things, we toured city hall, a seniors’ home; nursery, elementary and junior high schools; attended the Welcome and Sayonara dinners; had a calligraphy lesson; participated in a Japanese tea ceremony; had a bus tour of Tokachi, the region in which Toyokoro is located; and some of us had a kimono-wearing experience.
I particularly enjoyed discussions about how their local government operates and about the substantial solar array installed a few minutes from City Hall.
Japanese society is considered collectivist, meaning that, generally, the Japanese people “place a great deal of importance on extended families and group loyalty” and “may employ less direct communication and more avoidance-style conflict resolution” (Martin & Nakayama, Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 2018, p. 100). These aspects of Japanese culture were, to some degree, evident during the ten days we spent in Japan, particularly the strength of familial relationships and the tendency to avoid eye contact.
I found many aspects of Japanese culture enlightening and refreshing, although not all. So, after a couple of days getting to know Mayor Miyaguchi’s interpreter, I talked to her about my observations and received these responses: “Yes”, Japan is still a very patriarchal society; “Yes”, matters like substance abuse, mental health, and gender orientation are not discussed; and “Yes”, ethnic discrimination, including against the Ainu (indigenous) people, exists; and “Yes” fair-coloured skin plays a role in social standing.
I feel that Canadians, including those in leadership roles, still have varying levels of growth to do in these matters as well. However, I was so pleased, especially as a woman of colour, to be the Mayor representing the people of Summerland.
As I wrote earlier in this Minute, I did not see how local business or trade benefits from our relationship with Toyokoro, but I do see value in a cultural exchange program for our youth. Mayor Miyaguchi, members of the Sister City Committee and I had a good discussion about how we can strengthen this aspect of the relationship between our communities. We all agree that the last twenty years have done much to build a strong bond between our two communities. We also believe that evolving the program into a cultural exchange for youth (much like Toyokoro has done), would further strengthen the alliance and should be explored. Summerland Council will be discussing this matter further.
Thank you Council, Leanne Sieben (Chair) and the Sister City Committee, and Summerland for the opportunity to travel to Japan. Thanks, too, to previous Councils for your commitment to establish and grow a Sister City relationship with Toyokoro.
I look forward to welcoming the student delegation to Summerland in 2020. We may not be able to “out-gift” the Japanese, but I’m confident Summerland can “out-experience” our guests!
Mayor's Minute - August 7, 2019
In 2009, the District of Summerland Council hired a Planner responsible for assisting the District in meeting the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets of Bill 27 enacted by the Province in 2008: 33% less than 2007 levels by 2020 and 80% less by 2050. To further illustrate our commitment to take action on the changing climate, the District added these targets to our Official Community Plan (OCP) and signed the BC Climate Action Charter, a voluntary agreement between the Province, Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and local governments to take action on climate change.
The Planner and nine other staff members, with community members who sat on the Climate Action Advisory Group, completed the Community Climate Action Plan (CCAP) in 2011. The Action Plan incorporated public input from workshops and open houses and was a roadmap for achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets set out in the OCP. An update to the CCAP is being worked on now and is expected to come to Council for adoption later this year.
The 2011 Community Climate Action Plan includes seven climate action goals, two of which are to “promote energy conservation and dissemination of renewable energy technologies” and to “demonstrate municipal leadership”. The first goal includes two initiatives: “encourage energy conservation in buildings” and “support the development and utilization of renewable energy sources.” The second goal outlines six initiatives including: “Support Summerland’s Climate Action Fund and improve energy efficiency of municipally owned and operated buildings”.
Although there are other goals in the CCAP, this Mayor’s Minute focuses on initiatives related to energy use in Summerland. Here are just a few:
- Each year Council allocates specific funds to offset Climate Action operations. Any surplus funds at the end of each year are transferred into the District’s Climate Action Reserve Account, which can only be used to reduce GHG emissions in Summerland. This amount comes from three sources: CARIP (see below), 0.001% of the District’s annual operating budget, and the Sustainability Coordinator’s wage is paid for 50/50 from general taxation and the electrical utility fund.
- Currently, all energy sold in Summerland is purchased from FortisBC, then distributed by the Summerland Electrical Utility. To advance opportunities to benefit from local renewable energy projects, in 2016 the District hired a Sustainability/Alternative Energy Coordinator; in 2018 the General Manager, Electrical Utility position was added to District staff. There are many benefits to owning our electrical utility, including be able to generate energy locally and keep money (that currently goes to FortisBC) in the local economy.
- Early last year, Summerland was conditionally awarded $6 million in federal grant funding for a Solar+Storage project, an initiative that will see an array of approximately 3200 solar panels and battery storage added to the electrical utility’s assets. A proposed site has been selected, but a final decision will not be made by council until further testing confirms this site is suitable for the project.
- The District reports annually on emission reductions to the Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP). In 2018, the District received $32,883 from this program.
- Summerland has three Level 2 electric vehicle charging stations installed and has applied for funding to add two Level 3 stations. On August 12, Council is discussing an application for funding to install additional stations throughout the District. (An empty battery takes approximately 4 hours to fully charge at a Level 2 station; 30 minutes to charge to 80% full at a Level 3 station.)
- A switch to LED streetlights completed in 2018/2019 is expected to save the community over $72,000 each year in operating costs.
- In 2015 the District implemented its Distributed Generation (Net Metering) Program. This program allows residents with their own energy generation systems, such as rooftop solar, to connect to the Summerland electrical grid and receive a credit for any excess energy produced.
- The District’s net metering program has recently been updated and will be re-launched at an open-house style event on August 27 from 3 to 6 pm at the Arena Banquet Room.
Please note that Mayor’s Minute will not be in the August 22 edition of the Herald; the column will resume August 29.
Mayor's Minute - July 25, 2019
“In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.” — Benjamin Franklin
Summerland residents can breathe a sigh of relief that the 2019 tax season is over: they have claimed the suitable Homeowner’s Grant (if eligible) and submitted their payment. Summerlanders can be assured that services will continue for another year; that infrastructure will be maintained, repaired, and/or replaced; and that public facilities and amenities will continue to be operated safely.
But what does this mean? Where do our tax dollars go?
Here is a short list to give you an idea of how the District of Summerland puts your tax dollars to work for you. Starred items (*) are related to Summerland’s share of regional district services.
- Okanagan Regional Library, Summerland branch
- Debt financing, both municipal and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS)*
- Regional transit, including the new route to Kelowna beginning in September*
- 911 emergency service (improvements only)*
- Emergency management, including the Emergency Operations Centre*
- Penticton Regional Hospital, including the David E. Kampe Tower*
- South Okanagan Conservation Plan*
- Mosquito control*
- Illegal dumping*
- Invasive species*
- Regional economic development (Okanagan Film Commission)*
- Regional Growth Strategy*
- Solid Waste Management Plan*
- Okanagan Basin Water Board*
- Regional trails (KVR Trail, for example)*
- RCMP (Summerland detachment and special investigation)
- Summerland Fire Department
- Recreational facilities, including the Aquatic Centre, Arena and Skatepark
- Trails, including Giant’s Head, Conkle Mountain, Centennial and others
- Parks, sports fields, and beaches
- Summerland Campground and Rodeo Grounds
- Roads (not including Highway 97)
- Summerland Museum and Summerland Arts and Cultural Centre
- Summerland Chamber of Commerce
- Festival of Lights
- Grants to non-profit groups such as the Summerland Food Bank and Resources, Ryga Arts Festival, Summerland Fall Fair, and others
- Fleet vehicles and equipment, including fire trucks
- Capital projects: plans and designs; upgrades, repairs and maintenance; replacement and new
- Downtown Beautification including banners and hanging baskets
- Landscaping and maintenance
- Garbage and recycling collection and landfill management
- Cemetery services
- Operation of municipal hall
The salaries and wages for District staff (operations) and the stipend for the Council (governance) are also funded through taxpayer dollars. Expenditures, including wages, that are related to utilities (water, sewer and electrical) are funded by monthly utility charges.
The front counter finance staff who receive your property tax payment collects it on behalf of the District of Summerland, the RDOS, and others. Timely payment of property taxes, including claiming the Homeowners Grant, is every property owners’ responsibility. If you are late making your payment and facing a penalty, take ownership for your decision. Be civil to District staff.
It is easy to grumble about paying taxes—I’ve done it too—but if those who benefit from the services don’t pay for them … who should?