While residents of Summerland sometimes describe the community as having small-town charm, the Summerland Chamber of Commerce is asking for city designation.
At present, Summerland is classified as a district municipality, but at a recent chamber of commerce meeting, the board of directors voted unanimously to petition municipal council to change the classification.
David Hull, executive director of the Summerland Chamber, said the change in classification would be a strong economic development tool for the community, 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. Elsewhere, a district is part of a larger community.
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.
Abbotsford’s population density is 377 per square kilometre. Chilliwack has 321 people per square kilometre. Revelstoke has a density of 183 people per square kilometre. Salmon Arm has 114 people per square kilometre. Kimberley’s population density is 122 people per square kilometre and Rossland’s population density is 63 people per square kilometre.
Summerland has a mix of urban areas and farms within its municipal boundaries. However, the urban areas are quite 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.
He said changing the community’s designation would not alter the quality of life.
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.
Following this resolution, 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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