West Kelowna is a visually stunning community and a four seasons playground. The community is located on the western shores and hillsides of Okanagan Lake and boasts: arenas and attractions; beaches and parks, hiking, cross country skiing and mountain biking trails; shops and restaurants; vineyards and orchards; and wineries and resorts. The municipality is located at the junction of Highway 97 and 97C (Okanagan Connector) and is the primary gateway to the Okanagan from B.C.'s most populous region, the Lower Mainland.
The District of West Kelowna has a population of 31,925 (2013 Stats Canada estimate) and an area of 121.4 square kilometres. West Kelowna is the second most populous municipality in the Regional District of Central Okanagan, and fourth in the Okanagan Valley. West Kelowna is a rapidly growing community, recording a 13.5% increase in population between 2006 and 2011 (Statistics Canada).
The community has a diverse economy, which includes agriculture, construction, light industry, lumber manufacturing, retail, services, tourism and wineries.
The District of West Kelowna was officially incorporated on December 6, 2007. Before then, it had been governed as a rural area of the Regional District of Central Okanagan (RDCO) and the Province of BC. Three elected representatives from the Westside Electoral Area sat as directors on the 11-member RDCO board to speak for citizens on the west side of Okanagan Lake, between Peachland and the W.R. Bennett Bridge. For many years the topic of incorporating the west side of Okanagan Lake into a stand-alone municipality was discussed at RDCO and provincial tables and at the community level. Three previous attempts at incorporation occurred:
A process in 1974, which ended before a referendum could occur;
A 1980 referendum, which resulted in 87% opposing incorporation; and,
A 1993 Westbank-only incorporation referendum, which was defeated by 66%.
A June 16, 2007 referendum decided the governance question. Taxpayers voted 84% to change from regional district rural governance to municipal status, and 51.1% were in favor of incorporation over amalgamation with the City of Kelowna. The referendum was the culmination of the work of the Westside Governance Committee, a 12-member committee with six representatives elected at a community meeting and six appointed by Westside Electoral Area directors. This core group was joined by twelve exofficio members representing the Westside improvement districts, RDCO Directors, City of Kelowna Mayor and Council, and the Westbank First Nation Council. Their valued work produced a close scrutiny of the different governance options available, presented in an 8-week public education initiative leading up to the referendum.
Four months after the referendum, area residents were participating in the first election campaign for a mayor and six councillors. On November 17, 2007 residents elected Mayor Rosalind Neis and Councillors Doug Findlater, David Knowles, Gord Milsom, Duane Ophus, Heather Pilling and Carol Zanon. To learn about the current Mayor and Council, please click here.
The first Mayor and Council were inaugurated on December 6, 2007 in a ceremony attended by Hon. Ida Chong, Minister of Community Development, MLA Rick Thorpe (now retired) and many dignitaries from neighbouring jurisdictions. The Letters Patent officially declared “Westside District Municipality” as an incorporated municipality and Council was given the option to change the name at a later date, if it so chose.
Council set the stage for a quick transition from previous government by establishing its first Strategic Priorities in 2008, with two key goals to be kept in mind—fiscal responsibility and public consultation.
November 2008 saw the municipality’s second election with Mayor Doug Findlater elected. Council conducted an opinion poll on the name of the community in conjunction with the Nov. 15, 2008 election of Mayor and Council. The opinion poll indicated a majority (82%) of Westside residents wanted a new name for the District with “West Kelowna” gaining the most support (48%).
On Dec. 9, 2008, Westside District Council approved the name “West Kelowna” for the District and the Letters Patent were officially changed by the Province of BC on January 29, 2009.
To date Council and staff have accomplished a great number of goals in the strategic plan, moving ahead on many items sooner than expected.
For more information, see Strategic Priorities.
To learn more, please contact the District of West Kelowna at: