North Westside residents remain disenchanted

Survey results hint at dissatisfaction with rural area services, costs

The path to incorporation for North Westside residents continues to make more sense to Wayne Carson.

Carson, the Regional District of Central Okanagan board area director for the rural community, is pointing to results from a recent survey that reflect a 60 per cent dissatisfied rate with the services and costs as delivered by the regional district.

Carson said residents are upset about rising water utility costs, Killiney Beach being closed and two of the three area public boat launches unable to open this past summer due to flooding while the regional district awaits provincial mitigation funding assistance, and insufficient funding for parks.

He said its geographic location tends to createa greater connection to services from North Okanagan communities.

“I’ve been talking about this for the last three years now, about the dissatisfaction with representation from the regional district, but nobody wants to listen, nobody wants to hear that, but this is about stakeholder voting rights,” he said.

“And the survey shows that our residents are not happy with the current situation.”

RDCO chief administrative officer Brian Reardon is expected to provide a staff response to the regional board about the survey findings, said Bruce Smith, communications director for the RDCO.

“It didn’t come up at the December meeting so the next opportunity would be at the board meetings on Jan. 11 or Jan. 22,” Smith said.

Carson has long been advocating for self-government for North Westside residents, asking for a self-governance study to be done on the feasibility of that idea.

In 2016, then community development minister Peter Fassbender rejected the governance study request, saying the size of the Killiney Beach community and the lack of similar requests from other communities within the electoral area dictated the study would not be appropriate.

Related: North Westside director slams provincial ministry

At the time, Carson argued the North Westside municipality bid was not just about Killiney Beach residents, but the entire electoral area from LaCasa to Westshore.

With a population base of about 1,500 residents, Carson says becoming a municipality would place it in the middle of the population rankings for the 165 incorporated municipalities across the province.

He said past incorporation of communities in the Okanagan such as Lake Country and West Kelowna revealed that road upkeep and maintenance are one of the key financial issues for any new civic jurisdiction.

“Westside Road falls under provincial jurisdiction so that wouldn’t be our concern but our area has about 32 kilometres of roads out there,” he said.

North Westside remains a rural area, Carson says, that is largely disassociated from both the Central Okanagan urban centre and North Okanagan Regional District, but relies on services from both.

“We are far out from Kelowna on one side, and on the other side we rely on police services from Armstrong, the conservation officer comes from Vernon, the ambulance takes people to the Vernon hospital and more than 200 kids here are enrolled in the North Okanagan school system,” Carson said.

“When you drive into Kelowna on Westside Road in the morning there is a steady stream of regional district vehicles headed in the opposite direction. How cost effective is that?

“We have a lot more in common with Vernon than we do with Kelowna, yet Kelowna board directors are making decisions on our behalf. We haven’t even had our own MLA since Christy Clark resigned after the last provincial election.”

Carson said parents of incoming students to the school system living in North Westside are now being instructed to enrol their kids in West Kelowna schools, which he says is the last straw for many people opting to move closer to Kelowna or Vernon.

“I believe if you held a referendum tomorrow, there are three choices. Stay with the regional district as a rural area, incorporate and stay with regional district, or incorporate and join the Regional District of North Okanagan.”

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