Regional Rundown: Seeking public input on growing the population

as many of us know, a lot of homes and condos sit dark and empty for extended periods outside of school breaks.

Invermere and the rest of the Columbia Valley bustle with people over the Christmas holidays and during the summer months of July and August, but, as many of us know, a lot of homes and condos sit dark and empty for extended periods outside of school breaks.

Since 2007 and beyond, the number of units and amount of housing in the valley has increased substantially, while at the same time the permanent population has stagnated or even declined.

What makes the people who live here year-round stay? What could be done to ensure more people stay and thrive? What are the barriers and what are the potential opportunities that could attract new families and new year-round residents? Can existing second homeowners be converted to year-round residents?

These questions are the basis for, and what is driving, the “Columbia Valley Permanent Resident Attraction and Retention project.” Funded by CBT and administered by the District of Invermere, the project is now in the public consultation phase.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in the online survey (visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/Upper_Columbia_Valley) and also attend an in-person session with our consultants on Tuesday, January 26th from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lions Hall at the Crossroads.  There will also be an in-person consultation session in Calgary on Wednesday, January 27th from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino (Crow Flag Room).

Having a healthy base of year-round residents is important for our valley on a number of levels. It helps businesses to operate year-round, it ensures that we can maintain our existing government services (schools, hospitals etc.), it provides a potential work force for businesses struggling to find enough labour, and it provides a base of volunteers and a strong sense of community.

Your participation and assistance in this project will help to make the recommendations and actions as useful and practical as possible!

Gerry Taft is mayor of the District of Invermere and a Regional District of East Kootenay director for the Columbia Valley. He can be reached at taft.gerry@gmail.com.

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