The Local Government Act classifies municipalities as either a Village (population not greater than 2,500); a Town (population greater than 2,500 but not greater than 5,000); a City (population is greater than 5,000). Despite the classification of a City, West Kelowna was classified as a District Municipality due to a boundary area greater than 800 hectares and an average population density of less than five persons per hectare.
Having a population of over 30,000, West Kelowna Council had previously expressed interest to the Province to consider a reclassification from a District to a City. While this earlier request was not considered, on September 10, 2014, Minister Coralee Oakes indicated that the Province was willing to consider the feasibility of a reclassification for the District of West Kelowna to a City. Minister Oakes acknowledged that with a population of over 30,000, West Kelowna might be seen as a municipality of city proportions.
Municipalities such Penticton, Vernon and Campbell River which have populations of over 30,000 have been designated as cities. The District of Maple Ridge had recently been reclassified as a city.
What was the cost of this project?
The estimated cost to make the change was minimal at approximately $3,000, including:
Was a tax increase required?
No tax increase was required as a result of the municipal reclassification from District to City.
What are the benefits to changing the municipal classification?
One consideration given to changing the designation to a "City" was people's widely-held perception of cities versus a districts (for example, the connotation associated with "Small Town" versus "Big City"). A change in designation would also help alleviate confusion. Outside British Columbia the term "City" is much more recognizable to investors and new residents looking for a new location for business or home.
More than 1,400 businesses operate in West Kelowna whereby investors and customers would expect the municipality to have a City designation.
Additional examples of confusion include "City Hall" and "City Manager," which are already commonly used terms in West Kelowna. Switching to City status will also alleviate confusion with other organizations that are identified using "District," for example School District No. 23 and Regional District of Central Okanagan.
What was the process to change the municipal classification?
On September 30, 2014, Council directed staff to contact the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development to determine the process and costs involved in reclassifying West Kelowna from a District to a City. At the January 13, 2015 meeting Council directed staff to initiate the legislative process to change the municipal designation of West Kelowna from a District Municipality to a City, and attain the consent of electors through the Alternative Approval Process.
Staff prepared the necessary forms and advertisements for placement in local newspapers and on the District website to advise residents of the process.
The Alternative Approval Process was conducted from April 1 through May 11, 2015; and, 166 electors opposed the reclassification, whereas 2,306 opponents were required to register their opposition to defeat the proposition.
What is required when using the Alternative Approval Process?
Municipal staff published notices in the local newspaper, outlining the municipal reclassification proposal. After the second of the two notices was advertised, residents had thirty (30) days to express their opinion that a referendum should be held to attain consent of the electors.
If more than ten (10) per cent of electors would have been of the opinion that a referendum should have been held, the District of West Kelowna could not have proceeded with the reclassification of District to City, and would had to have had considered some other form of elector consent process.
West Kelowna provided Electoral Approval Forms for those residents who wished to register their formal opposition to the reclassification process under the Alternative Approval Process.
The benefits of using an Alternative Approval Process were:
Will neighbourhood communities continue to be recognized?
Yes. Like many municipalities, West Kelowna's strength lies in the vibrancy, rich histories, unique characteristics and strong senses of community held within its neighbourhoods: