Twenty years ago, on May 2, 1995, the District of Lake Country was incorporated. Local orchardist Bob McCoubrey was installed as the first mayor.
McCoubrey served as mayor from 1995 to 1999. He was followed in the mayor’s chair by Rolly Hein (1999 to 2005), who was followed by James Baker (2005 to the present).
All three of these men are longtime Lake Country residents.
Fast forward twenty years and Lake Country is the fastest-growing municipality in British Columbia.
“Lake Country, BC – Recently released figures from the Province have confirmed that Lake Country is officially the fastest-growing municipality in British Columbia, with the rapidly-evolving Okanagan community growing a whopping 5.6 percent between 2013 and 2014. Incorporated on May 2, 1995, the idyllic community nestled between Kelowna and Vernon is rapidly approaching its twentieth birthday – a fitting time to reflect on the growth from an amalgamation of four rural communities to a vibrant town of over 13,000 today. This rapid growth pushed the broader Kelowna Census Metropolitan Area into the fifth fastest growing region spot in all of Canada, with West Kelowna (2.4%) and Kelowna (1.0%) also experiencing rapid change.
“While we have evolved a lot since incorporation, welcoming thousands of young families and retirees seeking to enjoy our Okanagan lifestyle and sunshine, we have also worked very hard to protect the beaches, orchards and wineries that make our area so special,” says Mayor James Baker.
He goes on to note: “in fact, while our community is growing rapidly we are currently seeing an expansion to our agricultural base, with the construction of a major new winery.”
Being the fastest growing community amongst the 162 local governments in British Columbia has not been without its challenges. Like most communities in North America, Lake Country is facing the realities of aging infrastructure, with pipes and roads reaching the end of their useful life. However, with a solid set of plans and funding strategies, they are working towards a systematic renewal of these community building blocks.
“We have also been fortunate to see a rapid expansion of our business base recently. Business licences are up dramatically, with 2014 being the second highest year for active business licences in Lake Country since incorporation,” says Mark Koch, the District’s Director of Community Services.
With a growing town centre, ever-increasing amenities, and an expanding residential base, this growth has meant that in 2014 new growth covered the equivalent of a 2% tax increase in municipal revenue – which has helped the community update critical infrastructure and amenities while trying to keep taxes reasonable. Mayor Baker goes on to share: “it’s exciting to see how our community has evolved over the last twenty years since incorporation, embracing change while attempting to respect the key characteristics that make Lake Country so desirable.”1
1 District of Lake Country press release, Okanagan Way, March 9, 2015. http://www.okanaganway.ca/2015/03/lake-country-fastest-growing-municipality-in-province/
Portraits of Mayors
- Mayor Bob McCoubrey, 1995 – 1999. Artist: Bonnie Shephard
- Mayor Rolly Hein, 1999 – 2005. Artist: Lynda Foulks
- Mayor James Baker, 2005 – present. Artist: Jean Heger