Letter to the Editor: Political insomnia and not thinking out of the box is a big problem in Peachland

Finally there is movement on this very important issue of sewage infrastructure in the municipality of Peachland, since the last time we had any action was the 2012 Sewer Phasing Plan Update. The Official Community Plan (Bylaw No 2220) states: “As on-site septic disposal systems continue to age and receive effluent, the number of failures is expected to increase with potential impacts on the health of aquatic resources, including local groundwater, streams and Lake Okanagan.” Also indicated was the failures of septic systems which would place a financial burden on many property owners as they will have to be replaced.”

 One of the policies outlined in the plan states “Continue to pursue funding opportunities offered by senior levels of government to extend the community wastewater collection system once the Water Treatment Plan Project is complete.”

Now that we are here and the municipality of Peachland has begun the process, this is where my concern lies: In 2010 when we purchased our home in Peachland, I inquired at the municipality when we may see movement on the sewer infrastructure in our area.  The municipality’s response was 5 years, when speaking with other residents in Peachland they affirmed they too were provided the timeline of 5 years even though we all inquired in different calendar years.  This has left me with skepticism towards the municipality’s commitment to this project and left wondering if I will be waiting another 10 years to see if this issue will be brought forward again and not fulfilled.

On July 23, 2021 myself and a representative of a concerned group of residents had a meeting with Joe Mitchell, then Chief Administrative Officer, and Shawn Grundy, Director of Operations, on the issue of said sewage system in the municipality of Peachland. At that time we received a lot of informative information including past and future plans on this issue. At this time they had just received notice that a proposal for a sewer upgrade in an area of Princeton Ave had been rejected. Just over a year later the Municipality put forward another project proposal for 119 homes at an estimated cost of $6,494,884 with a grant application for $4,762,699 which leaves a balance of $1,732,185 borrowed for a term of 25 years at current rates which would result in annual charge of $884 to homeowners. If my information is correct, that would be paid by all residents of Peachland whether you have access to the sewer or not. Currently all Peachland residents are being charged on their municipal tax forms, RDCO- Solid waste transfer station – $32.75, Sewer- Capital Asset Renewal – $18.96, Sewer- Force main Debt Svc – $75.00.

 The point I wish to get across is sewer infrastructure should be a priority of the municipality, the council and the mayor. There should be some policies in place to raise funds that are allocated to making this happen and not go empty handed hoping they get the needed funds for the projects. As a whole the municipality, council and the mayor need to be accountable for thinking outside of the box to come up with ideas to have the extra funding needed to move these projects ahead. 

 An example of a missed opportunity and funding that could have been redirected to projects such as the sewer system is the purchase of Duck and Pug, $675,000 back in 2017.  This property was purchased by the Municipality and converted to a water park which went over budget.  Peachland prides itself on conserving water which this water park contradicts.  The amount of waterfront including a developed swim bay area was already enough to bring tourists into Peachland.  Instead, if the municipality chose to do what many other municipalities have done, by purchasing Duck and Pug to hold the property while it increased in value and at a later date could have turned a profit for the community instead of costing them.

(this file pic of the splash pad is from July, 2021)

 

Another example is Turner Park, what is the property worth on the market today? Peachland could potentially see a profit of over one million dollars with this sale.  Instead the municipality is contemplating another dog park or a ball diamond even though Peachland’s current downtown ball diamond sits empty the majority of the year.   

 Best case scenario between the two examples above, if Duck and Pug was sold instead of development along with the sale of Turner Park the municipality of Peachland could have raised or close to the down payment of $1,732,185 for the sewer infrastructure project.  Note, Peachland’s main demographic is residents between the ages 55-75 who would benefit more from the municipality working towards funding for sewer infrastructure, instead of developing water parks and ball diamonds which are utilized by the smallest age demographics in Peachland.  Demographics information can be found at the following: https://townfolio.co/bc/peachland/demographics

 Last example is parking meters in the downtown of Peachland during the busier summer months.  The controversy from business owners that it would reduce business I believe is unfounded.  As a previous business owner in downtown Peachland I interacted with local and international customers and tourists. Everyone comes to Peachland because of what it offers them, a beautiful place to relax, great patio restaurants, unique shops, amazing views and an amazing walkway along the lake. A small parking fee is not unreasonable nor a deterrent for visiting Peachland. As for residents, a program could be implemented for a resident pass to be purchased for a small fee for downtown parking during these months. The funds accumulated from parking in these months would help immensely towards projects such as the sewer infrastructure.

 I know the examples above might not be to everyone’s liking. So please, I implore you, the residents of Peachland, to reach out and bring forward any ideas you may have to help the municipality, council and mayor who seem to have been mired in political insomnia for the last 20 years on this important issue. 

-Rainer Udala, Peachland

Written by Kristen Friesen

April 2, 2022

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