Council to weigh in on economic and tourism plan

Published on March 2, 2023 by David Wylie

Open sign on a businessPhoto: Contributed
The photo used on the title page of the proposed economic development and tourism plan for Lake Country.

A part-time economic development specialist and a limited budget would be enough to implement a proposed five-year economic development and tourism plan for Lake Country, say district staff.

Funds would come from potential grant funding and/or the district’s budget, according to a summary of the plan to be discussed at the March 7 council meeting.

It also proposes the creation of a full-time economic development officer and more money allocated in the 2023-2024 budget to execute. Though no dollar figure is noted.

District staff released their 11-page plan, which was two years in the making, as part of the council agenda package.

“Lake Country’s popularity as a visitor destination is rapidly growing, making it important to create and implement a strategy on how to attract visitors and identify what resources are required to ensure visitors have what they need to make their time in Lake Country positive and memorable,” it says.

5-year tourism strategy

Only one of the six main points in the plan is dedicated to attracting tourists. Among the priorities are:

  • A mobile visitor centre, which has gone through a pilot project.
  • Establishing a winter market, starting 2024.
  • Creating a mobile food vendor strategy.
  • Continuing efforts in establishing the Farm Gate Trail.
  • Educating short-term vacation rental owners on how to be a good neighbour—and bringing existing rentals into compliance with bylaws.
  • Promoting (which currently has a link under ‘Shop Local’ leading to Lake Country branded ‘swag’ sold on

‘Apathy’ to shopping local in Lake Country

Encouraging Lake Country residents to shop locally is the first key pillar in the municipality’s economic development and tourism plan.

“Educating community members on the importance of shopping local can be lost due to apathy,” it notes among challenges, along with, “cost of shopping local at times is unrealistic when compared to big box stores in neighbouring communities and shopping online.”

The five-year plan hinges, in part, on the creation of a Lake Country Business Park. That first requires the re-zoning of ALR lands located between Okanagan Centre Road West and Glenmore Road. The move is intended to ease the overall tax burden on residents from about 87.5% down to 78% in 2028. By generating a bump in the number of light industrial businesses paying taxes, the district forecasts an increase in the light industrial tax base from 2% to nearly 10%.

Meanwhile, Main Street continues to be targeted for commercial development.

Part of the strategy is making it easier and faster for businesses to get permits. “Businesses applying to develop, or grow are experiencing long wait times (two-plus years),” says the report, adding “the application and permitting process should be modernized to reflect the current size of the community and provide a more efficient and reliable timeline and transparency of the process.”

One of the development priorities is to attract green tech, including electric vehicle charging stations. The district plans to work with the Regional District of Central Okanagan, UBCO and Okanagan College on environmental projects.

The economic development and tourism committee helped craft the strategy.

Six objectives in the plan

  • Strengthen existing businesses and foster diversification
  • Diversify Lake Country’s tax base
  • Review and update the permitting process to support new and existing businesses
  • Foster environmental and sustainability initiatives
  • Support development of small industrial properties and influence the creation of commercial space
  • Enhance the tourism and visitor experience