New councillors will face touchy issues

In all of the campaigning leading up to the recent civil election one name was noticeably absent from the community dialogue. Former councillor at large Geoff Greenwell decided against running for another term due to an increasingly busy professional life.

“It’s a very serious and important responsibility to serve as a councillor and I could no longer give it the time that it deserves,” says Greenwell.

Despite not being at the forefront of municipal decision making, Greenwell is still interested in the goings on of the community.

There are a number of significant unresolved local issues that the new council faces in the coming three years. Greenwell says that the manner in which these issues are dealt with and the outcomes of the decisions that are made will have a major impact on the public perception of council’s ability to govern.

Greenwell predicts that one defining issue of the new council will be to revisit the legitimacy of the ward system that Lake Country uses to elect its council. He says that public opinion is strongly polarized with many members of the community supporting the current system and another faction that favours electing all of council at large.

The controversy arises out of the time of incorporation when efforts were made to ensure that each of the four neighbourhoods that joined together to create Lake Country would have input at the council table.

Many of those who favour at-large elections claim that the ward system represents voters disproportionately due to the fact that all councillors are granted equal voting rights for all council decisions regardless of which ward or wards will be most affected.

Greenwell says that both sides of the argument make valid points. He says past discussions of electoral reform in Lake Country have been met with indifference from council and he hopes to see the issue addressed more thoroughly when it comes up again.

During the election campaigns one topic that most, if not all, of the candidates touched on was the need to diversify Lake Country’s tax base. Greenwell agrees with the assessment that civic revenues are too heavily dependent on residential taxes.

He suggests that with a new council in place it is likely that Woodsdale Ranch resort development will once again find its way to the forefront of community issues. Past proposals for the site have been met with heated discussion at council meetings and turned down over questionable benefit to residents of the community.

Developing Woodsdale Ranch as a resort would do much to diversify the tax base and would also have a huge impact on defining the character of Lake Country. Greenwell says it will take strong leadership from council to determine if any forthcoming revisions to the development plan are in line with the community vision as presented in the official community plan.

Looking further into the future one issue that Greenwell sees coming up is that of seniors housing. The community has an aging demographic and currently there are only two small seniors homes in Lake Country. Both homes are full and Greenwell says that as a community, Lake Country needs to look into attracting a larger home so that seniors can remain close to friends and family.

On a personal note Greenwell wishes to encourage the newly elected councillors to make the most of their positions. He also thanks CAO Alberto De Feo for his work on an ongoing organizational review at the District of Lake Country and he looks forward to following next year’s budget process when savings potentials identified by the review will be considered by council.

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