Lake Country council’s vision for a business park could eventually mean millions of tax revenue dollars for the district.
During a public hearing to consider excluding six parcels of land from the agricultural land reserve (ALR) for future industrial use, district land agent James Robertson told council it could expect around $1 million annually in tax revenue if lands are undeveloped, and approximately $2.6 million if built out.
“These are just raw numbers but the fact of the matter is that right now you have very low-value industrial properties that could be turned into very high-value industrial properties with the addition of servicing and roads,” he said.
The lands are located between Okanagan Centre Road West and Glenmore Road, and south of Seaton Road. A business park in the area has been envisioned by council for several years. Robertson added the district is competing against other Okanagan communities for industrial spaces.
“Lake Country has not a lot of this type of facility available to it, and people who want to operate a light industrial business go to Kelowna or Vernon. This will certainly bring back some locals if it gets built, and the whole community will have a chance to provide some input and vision into this park.”
Several residents who spoke at the public hearing were concerned that council had no concrete plan for a business park.
“Nothing has been said about what the plans are,” said Lee McCarthy. “Is it heavy industrial, buildings, do you know what you’re planning? As far as I’m concerned this has all been rather covert.”
Her comments prompted an exchange with Mayor Blair Ireland.
“This is not a covert thing, this has been a plan for many years to try to develop some light industrial land so that we can diversify our tax base,” added Ireland. “Our tax base right now is on residents and it’s overweighted on that.”
Former district councillor, Bill Scarrow, spoke in favour of excluding the lands from the ALR.
“I have lived here since 1955 and I have never seen agriculture on any of those lands because it doesn’t support agriculture. You can’t grow anything on it so why keep it in the ALR?”
Resident Douglas McLeod said he was concerned about potential impacts on wildlife, the environment, infrastructure and traffic.
“I don’t think I need to tell anybody on council just what a disaster Okanagan Centre Road West is,” he said. “It’s dangerous and it’s probably only going to get worse. This has to be resolved as we move forward with these kinds of projects.”
Mayor Ireland noted that while the district needs the tax revenue, an industrial business park will benefit the community in the future.
“It’s not just about the taxes. It’s about jobs in our community, having a job where you can actually work in Lake Country and make a decent living is not easy.”
Council voted unanimously to send the ALR exclusion application to the Agricultural Land Commission, which can approve or deny the request.