I would like to respond to Pamela Owen’s Nov. 3 letter entitled, “Economic development must be key.” She states, “The original OCP was written at a time when the North Okanagan was experiencing massive growth and the economy was solid. The OCP then reflected the need for control and protection. Today, our economy is struggling. The OCP must reflect the need for economic development.”
Our current OCP was adopted in 2008. The OCP is open for review every five years. I would argue that control and protection are required at all times, not just when development is experiencing massive growth. The health of our city relies on a balanced scale.
If we focus solely on economic development, the environment can suffer dramatically. If we focus solely on the environment, and deny growth entirely, there may be residents leaving town to find work elsewhere. I think both sides need to work together to grow in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.
How do we go about developing in a manner that meets the needs of current Vernon residents without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs?
We can begin by building up the downtown core. We can easily put the next 10 years of growth into the downtown core. We can create mixed-use neighbourhoods that will enable residents to walk to work, shopping, entertainment and recreation. We must build up and stop sprawling out on our valuable land and hillsides.
Taxpayers will save a great deal of money on infrastructure if we funnel future growth into the downtown core. Infrastructure costs skyrocket when services like roads, water, sewer lines, sidewalks, etc. must be built far from town and on steep hillsides.
It also costs a great deal more to maintain infrastructure far from town. Developing in the downtown core also makes transit more affordable. By creating affordable housing downtown, we will be able to provide a variety of housing options for young, single workers and families interested in moving to Vernon to work, and for seniors that are ready to move out of their family homes.
Residents will be able to walk to work, shops, restaurants, and entertainment. This will take many cars off our roadways, reducing traffic congestion and pollution. Downtown buildings and amenities can be designed to promote social interaction. Local events like Civic Sounds and the Sunshine Festival clearly demonstrate that Vernon residents enjoy social interaction downtown.
We must create and preserve well-defined natural spaces and agricultural lands. We must reduce our water use.
Another comment in the letter was, “Only with economic development will we be able to have a sustainable and thriving city.” I agree that sustainability must be our goal in all matters put before city council. Economic development can take many forms. Not all projects are beneficial or created equal.
A vibrant city is able to strike a balance between economic prosperity, social responsibility and environmental stewardship. Let’s all work towards keeping the scale balanced so we can enjoy the quality of life we have come to expect and often take for granted.