More than 70 people showed up at the newly renovated Kaleden Community Hall last Tuesday evening to listen to the three candidates vying for Area “D” director talk about local issues.
The meeting was reminiscent of the previous week’s all candidates meeting held in Okanagan Falls, with several similar topics discussed. The two communities proved to have divergent natures in the end, however, as illustrated by the different priorities shown in each community’s discussions.
The three politicians – Janice Johnson, Alan Whitman and Tom Siddon – were subjected to questions about economic growth, incoporation, street beautification and road improvements during the Okanagan Falls meeting, whereas in Kaleden, residents voiced concern over such issues as the status of the Kaleden portion of the Kettle Valley rail trail, control over future development in the community and beyond, and the prospect and implications of a sewer extension from Okanagan Falls to the foot of Lakehill Avenue.
Residents from both communities shared similar concerns over such things as the deer population and the new Fortis power transmission line runnning along the east shore of Skaha Lake.
Messages delivered by all three candidates at the Kaleden meeting on Tuesday night echoed those of the previous week, save for what appeared to have been a slight modification of each candidates’ stand on the deer issue, possibly due to input received from the candidates door to door stumping in Kaleden over the previous few days.
Candidate Tom Siddon played to the local crowd at Tuesday’s meeting, comfortably engaging an audience that was largely composed of neighbours and associates. Both Whitman and Johnson – residents of the eastside of Skaha Lake – appeared to be more reserved than they had been the week before.
Each candidate was able to deliver sensible, thoughtful answers to each question put to them, however, giving citizens few reasons to disqualify them from consideration as valid candidates.
In terms of Kaleden specific issues, Tuesday’s meeting had candidates answering questions pertaining to the removal of the Twin Lakes area from the regional district’s Regional Growth Strategy as a secondary growth area because of concerns over water sustainability. Johnson and Whitman readily agreed to support such a move at the board level, while Siddon commented that the issue is “about aquifer capacity for 200 plus more houses.”
Concern was also voiced at the lack of bylaw enforcement capacity in Area “D.” All candidates expressed a desire to work towards reinstating an effective level of bylaw enforcement service.
Several questions arose regarding accessibilty issues surrounding the Kettle Valley rail trail along the Kaleden waterfront. A recent sale of part of the trail west and north of Alder Avenue has resulted in uncertainty over where and how future access to that portion of the trail will manifest itself. The candidates could offer little more than assurance that they would do everything they could to ensure the trail remains viable through the purchased section, observing that there would be limitations to where the trail could be placed because of development plans envisioned for the purchased portion.
Questions also arose over the prospect of a sewer system extending into the Kaleden hills and the possibility of development escalating as a result.
Johnson said that she would hold public meetings to define public sentiment towards any large scale development in the community. She said she would also review the Official Community Plan (OCP) for direction.
Siddon noted that such opportunities always brought politicians “new friends” who could also provide opportunities for economic development.
“I am an advocate of sewers,” he said, “but what controls population is how big the pipe is and who is going to pay for it. There are substantial hurdles to overcome before any of this takes place – including defining what the size of the pipe will be.”
“I am not in favour of excessive development,” Whitman said, noting that Kaleden was not envisioned to have mulit- family density in the Regional Growth Strategy.”I would not be looking at rezoning,” he said.
The only economic question of the evening came from Amarveer Grewal, representing the Kaleden General Store, who asked the candidates what they would do to help him regain a liquor agency license for the store.
Whitman declared that he would be prepared to lobby on Grewal’s behalf, noting that the bureaucracy was tying up the issue and sitting firm on license density rules.
Johnson said that she would speak to licensing staff to ensure they were aware of the history and current situation in Kaleden, where there is no liquor agency compared to three in Okanagan Falls.
Siddon noted the 440 signature petition already filed to the provincial agency, saying that even with it, a recent application was turned down.
“Who is pulling the strings here?” he asked, “I’m always suspicious about where influence is coming from.” He promised to push MLA John Slater’s office to resolve the issue.
Advance polls take place in Kaleden on November 9 and election day is November 19. Kaleden’s polling station is located at Kaleden Elementary School.