Association of Citizens for Summerland

Saturday, April 30, 2005

More Committee Summaries


  • Major membership drive will be held at the Open House, May 4th
  • Membership drive will continue on May 5th at local Grocery Stores
  • Set up sign up tables at some of the high density housing such as Angus Place
  • Community bulletin boards could be used for info
  • Mass distribution of brochures to neighbours and friends
  • Farmers Market
  • Library Bulletin
  • Bumper Stickers used for publicity
  • Send speakers to the various service groups and clubs to give information and extend membership invitation

Research and Information

We need to conduct research and collect information in a Summerland specific way on the following topics. This information should be posted to the website and distributed to the membership.

  • Water: Thirsk dam, aquafer information, development plans, fish requirements
  • ALC/ALR: history, mandate, process, Council direction
  • Agricultural Advisory Committee and Plan: minutes, process
  • OCP and proposed zoning changes
  • Climate change and how it will affect Summerland statistics and projections
  • Municipal Budget and property taxes and levies
  • Council: due process and agendas
  • Reverse Referendums; past and future
  • All aspects regarding the preservation of agricultural lands; other communities, provincial statistics, special value, new University considerations, Research Centre
  • Smart Growth policies and how Summerland can adopt and implement
  • Special wildlife habitats, Species at Risk mapping, wetlands and corridors

Well that's it so far, folks. A big Thank-you to all those who contributed ideas and participated in the discussions. However, this list is in no way exhaustive. If you have more ideas, please send them as a comment. And now we need help in turning these ideas into action. If you can help in any way, please contact me! Thanks again and see you at the Open House, May 4th!

Committee Summaries, Meeting April 27th

At our first public meeting, those attending broke into smaller committee groups to discuss the areas of Publicity, Internal Communications, Membership, Research, and Questions for the Open House. Each committee gave a brief summary of their discussion to the whole group. We came up with some great ideas and have set some short and medium term goals for the direction of the Association. Here's what we came up with:


  • Weekly column in the Review, Western, Herald, etc.
  • Word of Mouth is key; possible contest for incentive, door to door canvassing
  • Bumper Stickers
  • Notice Boards
  • Website and E-mails
  • Importance of uniform material
  • Stress the major issues: Water, Community character, ALR, habitat preservation
  • Set up a budget
  • Radio or TV interviews; CBC, CHBC, etc.
  • sponsor our own "All Candidates Meeting" for the next election
  • Encourage representatives of the agricultural community to run in the next election
  • Encourage those from the agricultural community to vote

Internal Communications

  • Use of this website as a communication tool and to inform as to Association news
  • Phone committee for those not on e-mail for important information such as meeting dates
  • Notice boards downtown may be useful
  • Each committee should have a facilitator that would strive for consensus
  • Possible separate blog site for dialogue and discussion so it is not confused with the official Association news
  • Periodic newsletter done through web, e-mail, mailout or fax
  • Schedule regular general and committee meetings

Friday, April 29, 2005

First Public Meeting a Success!

Thank-you to all those who attended the first public meeting of the Association of Citizens for Summerland. There were approximately fifty in attendance. We signed many new members and a special thank-you to those who decided to make an extra donation. I think we accomplished a lot for a first night. The committees came up with some excellent ideas and we are on our way to making a positive impact on this community. Over the next few days, I will be posting the committee summaries from the meeting, so check back often! Our Association is off to a great start, and I am as committed as ever to seeing it succeed!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Making Good into Great

I had posted a long list of things we could do in Summerland to enhance the town (especially downtown), but I realized later that this kind of personal crystal-ball gazing probably doesn't belong on the web site of the association, even though it may be interesting to most of the members. We'll be opening up the site to a few members at a time, so you should be seeing other people's opinions and announcements here soon, more focused on the specific aims of the group.

Anyway, if you are still curious, I moved my list of ideas for Summerland over to my personal site. You're welcome to comment here, though -- Frank's getting things rolling with a great comment already.

Bad Assumptions, Bad Sources

There seems to be a fair bit of background buzz over the mayor's latest column in the Review. I wasn't as interested in his usual theorizing about water issues, but I did some digging into the so-called study he referenced here:
"On the OCP front, a new study came out that underlined that municipalities are failing miserably in their duty to bring more serviced land on the market and as a result the price of land, particularly lots, is going sky high, right across Canada."

Before we go too much further, it is revealing to find out that the organization doing the "study" appears to be a front for a coalition of industry organizations and corporations who depend on the continual expansion of single-family suburban development. Clayton Research describes their clients better than I could:
"Reflecting our diverse expertise and the reliability of our analysis, our clients include a wide mix of real estate developers and builders, investors, financial institutions, manufacturers, retailers, industry associations, and all levels of government."

So, we've got a "study" from a group of "researchers" who provide expert witnesses supporting residential development on prime agricultural land. Their slick opposition to any legislation limiting spawl, slowing growth or the establishment of greenbelts in Ontario landed them all kinds of press showing exactly where they stand on these issues. It's not surprising that the mayor has bought into their sprawling dream, and his prescription to remedy the supposed problem of a limited supply of land was already obvious in the last draft of the OCP, but he repeats it clearly for our benefit:
"Your present and future councils need to continue to focus on the creation of more serviced land, primarily by increasing density and promoting the creation of lots within the serviced areas."

His main assertion here is ridiculous. It is not the primary role of council to promote sprawling residential development. The only part worth agreeing with is the goal of increasing density in existing residential areas, and I hope this represents the future of population growth in Summerland. But we already know (after studying the second draft of the OCP) that the obvious agenda is to transform agricultural land and surrounding hillsides into cul-de-sacs, lawns and giant garages with houses hidden behind them.

The mayor is attempting to sell this idea by pretending that developing new land in Summerland will provide affordable housing for poor seniors and working-class young families:
"One of council's duties in reviewing the OCP is to consider the needs for housing of everyone - including the elderly who want apartments and assisted living units, and the young families, who want affordable housing."

Yeah, right. As if any of residential suburb planned for Summerland Vistas on Cartwright's eastern slope will qualify as "affordable" -- expect more Deer Ridge-style lots going for $130,000+ with $200,000+ houses on top of them. If they manage to remove ALR land north of town, we might see some new condos and townhouses thrown in with the pink-stucco single-family villas, but they'll all be starting somewhere between $180,000 and $200,000 with little likelihood of affordable rental properties in the mix.

The reality in any of the new areas slated for development in the second draft is that a select few are going to make a lot of money selling property and housing to new residents, and these new citizens will all be living too far away from downtown to walk (so they'll shop at Canadian Tire, Save-On and Wal-Mart on their way home from work), complaining about gas prices, congestion and a lack of parking because they're stuck in their vehicles to take their kids to soccer practice...and we'll all be paying for the sewer lines to accept the sludge from their four-bathroom homes, the water for their manicured lawns and swirling hot tubs, never mind expanded and new roads to funnel their SUV's through our school zones and stop signs.

Ok, so maybe I'm veering a bit into parody and reactionary stereotypes. I'm just thinking that there must be a better way. Is suburban sprawl the extent of our vision for the future? I think not -- more on this later.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Association of Citizens for Summerland

A group of passionate Summerlanders has started a formal group advocating a different vision for the future of the town than the one we're seeing from Council in the official community plan. Slower growth, ALR protection, enhancing the small-town feel...all that good stuff.

I'm supporting their efforts by changing the focus of this site to reflect the goals of the Association of Citizens for Summerland. Initially, we set up the blog to learn about what was going on and what the possibilities might be for improving the system (and OCP specifically). Now, I feel like the information-gathering phase is pretty much complete and the association can provide a framework for action.

As with any group, I could quibble with the details of this association's goals and approach, but these are smart, committed people with a vision I generally share, and they've taken the initiative to make things happen. So I urge you to support their work, especially in ensuring that we get an OCP that doesn't support sprawling development. Here are some of the details from their brochure, which will be available around town in the coming weeks:

"Association of Citizens for Summerland
“Preserving Summerland’s Unique Character”

The Association believes that Summerlanders enjoy a very special quality of life, and it will work to preserve and enhance that lifestyle. It recognizes that the vitality of Summerland does not depend upon growth and development.

Its mission is to support a safe and healthy community with a sustainable economy; to conserve farm, forest and ranch land; and to protect natural resources, fish and wildlife habitat.

The Association will support development and change if it enhances and improves Summerland’s small town character, friendly ambience and rural nature."

You can now download a draft of the the association's constitution and a membership application form.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Open House May 4 -- Put it on Your Calendar

As Tannis's letter indicated, Council is having another open house, this time with a somewhat narrower focus. As an aside, none of the council members have responded to her letter, which concerns me. Here are the details from the municipal newsletter:

Wednesday, May 4, 2005
4 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Arena Banquet Room, 8820 Jubilee Road
Water Issues Presentations — 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Official Community Plan Presentations — 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Plan to attend and find out more on these important issues in your community!

Perhaps I've become too cynical, but this looks much like like the last open house, which was basically a forum for council and staff to broadcast their message to a supposedly uninformed electorate. Although it was useful, that format is a very poor stand-in for real civic engagement that would actively solicit detailed feedback from interested citizens and groups. Although it looks like they will be presenting a new third draft of the OCP, inquiries to the municipality have indicated that there is no third draft yet, and the open house will be soliciting feedback to be integrated into it afterwards. Should be interesting...

Re-Zoning Hearing and Infill Development

I stumbled into this notice of public hearing on the district's web site yesterday. It's interesting to see that a group of eight different homeowners in one neighbourhood have banded together to ask for a change in their zoning designation.

They're asking for zoning to change from single detached homes to residential duplex housing. These changes are usually met by complaints and resistance from neighbours who fear that increased densities near them will create noise and traffic and drive down property values. I suppose they'll be at the meeting, doing their NIMBY best to block the change. One of the other reasons people oppose duplexes is that they've traditionally been built so poorly. They're often ugly and set too far back, with unsightly parking, bare yards and weird fences in front.

I'm considering attending the hearing for the opposite reason -- I'd like to see them increase the density further. That area (Spencer Avenue, Ritchie Street and Orchard Crescent) is close enough to downtown for people to walk for just about everything. Why not create high-quality, high-density housing there that encourages more people to walk, talk to their neighbours, and offers a mix of housing options?

This ties into the issue of expanding (or NOT) Summerland's developed land base. If Summerland can effectively develop near their established (and excellent) downtown area, the pressure comes off the ALR and open lands on the hillsides. It's a test of our resolve to do infilling well. It just makes more sense.

As a related this article to get a sense of a vision for towns and cities that would work infinitely better than the suburban sprawl currently dominating the landscape. He's aligned with the New Urbanism movement, which is basically aiming to create beautiful places where people can live, shop and work without needing cars.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Process Feedback

The following is a letter I've sent to the council inspired by the notice I recieved about the presentation of the third OCP draft. I realize that it's a bit long but I wanted to share it to see if there is any general community support for this type of model - please let us know by adding comments. My interpretation of some of Smart Growth's material is that they are willing to do a half or full day workshop if their expenses are covered (no additional fee). Might be somewhere to start?

Your Worship and Members of Council:

I want to begin with a sincere thank you for the recent efforts you have made to keep Summerlanders more informed on municipal issues. The open houses and notes included with utility bills are raising the profile of current topics of concern. I am writing to encourage you to take communication to the next level of two way dialogues in addition to the top-down briefings. I was disappointed to see that after all the interest and feedback generated by the previous open house a third draft of the OCP is going to be “presented” to the citizens, not allowing for participation.

The process as it now stands is causing many citizens of widely differing viewpoints to feel alienated and driven to create special interest groups in an effort to be heard. This reactionary approach often creates the unfortunate position of only being able to raise concerns after decisions have been made and publicized. This process increases the competitive and antagonistic nature of politics and does not strengthen community.

There are models of more effective community participation that we can access that will encourage discussion and consensus building. One potential option is the Smart Growth on the Ground program which has a well defined ideology and detailed model for planning that assumes multiple interest groups. Smart Growth is a non-profit organization that plays a consulting style of role to progressive municipalities. Communities may apply to participate only with the support of their municipal council and are chosen based on clear criteria, which I believe Summerland can satisfy.

As a social worker I appreciate that this type of process will be more time consuming and challenging as it is explored but I believe that it will be rewarded with a stronger and more supportive community. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Tannis Hiebert