Fight over pole on Okanagan beach raises governance questions

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Power pole on Okanagan beach polarizing – Nov 10, 2016

The issue may seem small to some people: in 2014 a single power pole was installed by the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) on a beach along the northwest shore of Okanagan Lake.

However, to those who live in the area of Killiney Beach, the fight over the location of a power pole is a strong example of why they need a local government more responsive to their needs.

North Westside Communities Association (NWCA) would like to see the power pole moved.

“The pole is very intrusive,” said president Bob Andrews.

“We would like that beach space cleared up for the community.”

The regional district says because of those complaints, it is reviewing whether it should move the pole and how much it would cost. However, so far, the district appears to be leaning towards leaving the pole in place.

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“At this point we don’t see any justification for moving the pole. It’s an almost one hectare waterfront park. The pole doesn’t affect access to the park in anyway,” said regional district spokesman Bruce Smith.

The RDCO argues a move might have hidden environmental costs because of endangered trees in the area.

“It cost about $7,000 to install the pole in the first place. In order to get it compliant and legal it cost us about $6,800 dollars. That’s why we are in the process of getting accurate cost estimates,” said Smith.

However, those who want the pole moved aren’t impressed that the regional district has spent thousands legitimatizing it. NWCA vice president Michelle Carson has argue the district has been “fighting … the expressed wishes of the community.”

Read More: Rural Okanagan residents seek new governance model

For some who live in the area it is just another example of why they don’t feel the regional district is responsive enough to their needs.

Their one local area director is easily outvoted on a regional district board dominated by representatives from Kelowna and other municipalities.

“This is just a very blatant example of them not listening to our concerns or addressing our concerns,” said Carson, who is married to local regional district area director Wayne Carson.

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They’ve been calling for a provincially funded study to look at the way the North Westside area is governed.

“Having a different form of government that is local is more important than anything,” said Andrews.

The province is expected to make a presentation to the regional district board about a governance study later this month.

However, the province says for funding to be provided for a study the regional district would have to request it.

In the meantime, the regional district argues it is responding to concerns by reviewing the location of the embattled pole.

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