YEAR IN REVIEW: Summerland Chamber asks for city status

Change in designation seen as advantage in attracting investment

The glamour of the city beckoned in September when the Summerland Chamber of Commerce suggested changing Summerland’s classification from a district municipality to a city.

Earlier this year, the chamber’s board of directors unanimously voted to petition municipal council to change the classification.

David Hull, executive director of the Summerland Chamber, said the change would be a strong economic development tool, especially in attracting international investment.

“A city designation would sound a little more progressive,” he said. “You’re playing in the bigger leagues when you’re a city.”

He added that the term “district” as a community designation is used in British Columbia but nowhere else in North America. Outside of the province, a district is often considered a part of a larger community.

READ ALSO: Summerland chamber director objects to ‘Smokanagan’ moniker

READ ALSO: Summerland Chamber letter raises concerns about proportional representation referendum

British Columbia has four classifications used when incorporating a municipality. A village has a population of up to 2,500 people. A town has between 2,500 and 5,000 people. A city has a population of more than 5,000.

A district municipality is based on a population density of fewer than 500 people per square kilometre.

In the 2016 census, Summerland had a population of 11,615 and a population density of 156.8 people per square kilometre.

While Summerland’s population density is far lower than the threshold, Hull said there are plenty of B.C. cities which have lower densities than 500 per square kilometre.

Summerland has a mix of urban areas and farms within its municipal boundaries, but the urban areas are compact and densely populated, Hull said.

“The urban core of Summerland is quite compact and as such, ‘city like’,” he said in a report to the chamber board.

In order to reclassify Summerland as a city, public support would be required, either through a referendum or the alternate approval process.

The estimated cost of a referendum is between $65,000 and $75,000, while the alternate approval process would cost an estimated $5,000, he said.

Once public support has been received, a council resolution would be required.

Then, municipal staff would work with the province to change Summerland’s designation. He estimates the process would take two years to complete.

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