As the election nears a number of different interest groups will send questionnaires to the council candidates. Here are my answers to the first one!
1) ON A SCALE OF 1 – 10, HOW URGENTLY WOULD YOU SAY OUR DOWNTOWN CORE
NEED ATTENTION? (1 BEING NOT URGENT, 10 BEING VERY URGENT):
2) IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE 3 BIGGEST ISSUES WITH OUR DOWNTOWN
a) A limited residential base
b) Many commercial buildings need to be revitalized
c) Streetscape is less than beautiful right now on many of the side streets and along Bernard
3) IF YOU WERE ON COUNCIL, WOULD YOU HAVE SUPPORTED THE CD-21 IN
It’s interesting to me that some people are still talking about the CD 21 decision. In the 2008 election, I ran on a platform of voting against CD 21 for a number of reasons. I’m going to repeat them here for those of you that may have missed that discussion or would like a refresher.
I also want to remind people that the decision was not deferred by council. Rather, there was a delay between third and fourth reading because the plan was in front of the provincial Ministry of Transportation. Any development that happens within 800 meters on either side of provincial highway is subject to review by the Ministry and they operate on their own timetable.
The CD 21 discussion first began at the council table sometime in 2006 after staff were approached by a developer who wanted to create a plan for the first four blocks next to City Park, as well as his own site on the corner of Mill and Queensway. Council agreed to have staff work on this project as a way of possibly bringing some excitement to the idea of revitalizing those blocks. The first part of the project was to develop some over-arching guidelines and principles for downtown redevelopment. The second part was a much more detailed look at traffic flow through the area, the need for amenities to serve the projected population and an overview of public amenities that could be built using developer funds. Finally, a detailed plan was developed spelling out exactly how the area would look. First and second readings were given with some councillors expressing concern, but voting in favour of moving forward to public hearing in order to hear from the general public. This public hearing was held just prior to the 2008 election. At that time, third reading was passed, with Mayor Shepherd, Councillor Hobson and myself voting against.
The reasons I voted against the CD 21 re-zoning were as follows. First, I felt that the heights near the lake shore were not supported by the general public. Second, I felt that the heritage buildings in the area were not sufficiently protected. Third, I felt that the plan for a hotel on the old Royal Trust site, known generally as Kerry Park, was not in the public’s best interest. Fourth, staff told council that they would not support any variances outside of the CD 21 area and I felt this would effectively block any kind of redevelopment in the upper portions of downtown. And finally, and perhaps most importantly for me, I felt that the large development blocks were not supported by the many small property owners – leaving the plan virtually unachievable.
Many candidates ran in the 2008 election based on how they would vote at final reading for CD 21. After the election, it became clear that CD 21 would not pass and although it took an unfortunate amount of time for the final reading to come back to council, that was the eventual outcome. The vote was three-six, with Mayor Shepherd, Councillor Hobson, Hodge, Reid, Stack and myself opposed.
The work that was done for CD 21 was not a waste. Much of the background study around transportation, parking, park space and other amenities was used as staff worked on the revision of the Downtown Plan. This work was done in record time with a process that won accolades even from people who didn’t agree with all of the final outcome. The Downtown Plan is now being embedded into the Official Community Plan and as the economy improves it will provide a solid base for the revitalization of the heart of our city.
4) ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE DOWNTOWN CHARRETTE
THAT WAS FACILITATED THIS SUMMER? IF SO, DO YOU AGREE WITH THE
Yes, being a current councillor I was involved in the charette process and I agree with the recommendations.
5) IF YOU COULD SPEAK TO A DOWNTOWN BUSINESS OWNER (WHICH YOU WILL
BE, THROUGH OUR WEBSITE), WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM ARE THE MAIN
REASONS THEY SHOULD VOTE FOR YOU?
Throughout my six years on council I have focused on the quality of life issues that keep people in, and draw people to, our community. Examples in the downtown are Stuart Park, with its outdoor skating rink, the renewal of the Cenotaph in City Park, the One Block at a Time Outdoor Gallery project on Leon. I’ve supported cultural activities as well as sporting and festival events like Fat Cat Festival, the BC Summer Games, BreakOut West, and the Kelowna Dragon Boat Festival. I’ve been involved in creating supportive housing to help get our most vulnerable residents off the streets. I’ve worked hard on behalf of all business owners to keep our processes streamlined and timely and I stood up for residents, small businesses and property owners by turning down CD 21 and supporting an inclusive process for a new Downtown Plan. Finally I have served for the past three years as the council liaison to the Downtown Kelowna Association, taking the message of downtown business owners back to council and supporting their initiatives. Quality of life, with a balanced decision making process that looks at economic, environmental and social effects, will continue to be my focus in the term when re-elected.
I believe that one key to Kelowna’s future success will be the revitalization of Bernard Ave and the manifestation of the new Downtown Plan. I will continue to move these initiatives forward with budget funding and staff allocation. My experience with both of those projects will allow me to help businesses and property owners successfully navigate both processes. Government and business working creatively together will provide the best possible outcome for all of our citizens, whether they live, work or play downtown.
Over the years I have met many of our downtown business and property owners. I welcome any questions and comments and encourage healthy discussion and debate. I may be contacted at email@example.com or by phone at 250-762-3749. My complete platform can be viewed at www.michelerule.ca