Updated 3 p.m.
It now appears the lake-to-lake bike route will be completed this year.
Coun. Ryan Graham says it was an honest mistake on his part Tuesday when he went along with a motion to remove $1.5 million in capital funding for the project from the draft 2023 budget.
"I had voted in favour of not completing (the bike route) when in fact I want to complete it. So, I was misspoken when I did vote on that," said Graham at the tail end of Wednesday's session.
He then gave notice of a motion to reconsider at Thursday's budget wrap-up.
The original motion passed 4-3. If all the votes stay the same except for Graham's, that means the project will be back on.
Thursday's session is due to start at 3 p.m.
Posted: 12 p.m.
Capital funding of $1.5 million for the final leg of the lake-to-lake bike route was pulled out of the city’s draft 2023 budget late Tuesday at the conclusion of council’s first day of deliberations.
The measure passed by a 4-3 vote with Mayor Julius Bloomfield and Couns. Isaac Gilbert and Campbell Watt opposed.
While city staff said the move won’t affect the proposed 9.7% tax hike because it’s a capital project funded by a combination of reserves and grants, a majority of council suggested it demonstrates respect for taxpayers.
“I appreciate the distinction between operating and capital, but ultimately it’s all coming out of taxpayers’ pockets… even taking into account the grant that could potentially come through,” said Coun. Amelia Boultbee, who began the day with a declaration she wouldn’t support any further funding for the bike route.
She also expressed skepticism about community support for the project, citing one voluntary survey that received about 1,000 responses.
“I understand there were other community surveys but, overall, we’re talking about a fairly small amount of people,” said Boultbee.
“This project has been massively unpopular, many people lost their seats on city council or didn’t run again as a result, which I think speaks for itself, so once again I’m voicing my opposition to any funding for the bike lane.”
Couns. Helena Konanz and James Miller, who put forward the motion and suggested re-examining the issue during 2024 budget deliberations, echoed Boultbee’s concerns. The fourth and deciding vote came from Coun. Ryan Graham, who offered no explanation.
The first phases of the lake-to-lake bike route were installed in 2021 and 2022 and now carry riders on separated lanes from Okanagan Lake approximately four kilometres south to the intersection of Atkinson Street and Kinney Avenue.
Funding committed in the 2022 budget will see the route continue for roughly 750 metres through the Point Intersection, which is due to be decommissioned, and to a new roundabout planned for the intersection of South Main Street and Galt Road.
Funding proposed in the 2023 budget would have covered the final leg of separated bike lanes south from the new roundabout to Skaha Lake Road via South Main Street, which has painted – but unseparated – bike lanes.
Coun. Isaac Gilbert implored colleagues to follow through on the project, noting its relatively inexpensive cost compared to vehicle-specific infrastructure, such as the new roundabout at Galt Avenue with a price tag in the range of $6 million.
“That is more than half (the cost) of the bike lane that spans from lake to lake and that’s just for cars. So, when we look at that, its people who don’t have cars, who are using public transit or who are on bikes and choose not to have cars who are subsidizing people who are choosing to be in cars and more expensive vehicles,” said Gilbert.
“This has turned, in my opinion, into a culture war in this city and I would like to see this project go through to the end. I understand some people don’t find it popular, but there is a lot of support for that project."
Boultbee, Miller and Konanz all campaigned against the bike route during last year’s election and frequently found themselves together again on the losing end of 4-3 votes to cut the budget.
Those failed attempts included an effort to block a $175,000 increase in parks maintenance, eliminate a planned $150,000 review of the Official Community Plan, and reduce the social development budget by $105,000 to trim one of two staff positions.
Council is due to wrap up its deliberations late Wednesday afternoon, but city staff has kept Thursday open in case more time is needed.
Of the proposed 9.7% tax increase, 3.3% is intended to cover deferred hikes from past years and another 3.4% is meant to cover the municipality’s increased operational costs for the year ahead. The balance would be new spending on things like four new firefighters and two new RCMP officers.
A 9.7% tax hike would see the owner of an average home worth $662,000 pay an extra $176 this year on top of utility rate increases that will tack on another $61.
For the average commercial property worth $1.2 million, a 9.7% hike would add $688 to its annual tax bill, on top of an extra $380 in utility fees.