There were probably more agreements than arguments during the debate last Wednesday, Sept. 28, between Princeton mayoral candidates and candidates for director of Area H in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS).
Approximately 100 people attended the event, held at the Princeton Legion, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Similkameen Spotlight, and moderated by Sandra Lawlor, DTM.
Current Area H RDOS director incumbent Bob Coyne faced off against challenger Michael Mazurek. The pair discussed the area’s emergency response, telecommunications, mental health and substance use, governance, priorities for the next four years, and the need for housing.
Specifically, they were asked for their positions on permitting carriage houses and secondary homes.
Mazurek said he believes the RDOS needs to be flexible on housing, noting the housing issue is tied closely to the Town of Princeton and Princeton businesses.
“If I have a voice…development and housing opportunities at any level will get supported.”
Coyne explained that some kind of a solution is already in the works.
“The building code doesn’t allow it, so we are in the process of actually looking at ways of getting around that legally, so that people don’t get into trouble,” he said. “The planning department is in the process of finding ways to allow carriage houses and tiny homes on properties.”
Mazurek said he was unaware of that initiative “but overall I think we have to bring more action to that issue…I’m an action kind of guy.”
Coyne responded that processes need to be respected, and they often take time. He that the staff shortages in the RDOS offices have frustated efforts at times.
There was agreement on the importance providing social supports and on the need for better cell service in many areas of the region.
According to Coyne the district has been in contact with representatives at the provincial and federal levels about improving telecommunications, noting that following the November flood Tulameen had no phones for two weeks.
“I wholeheartedly agree with Bob’s comments. It is time and (the service) is not good enough,” said Mazeruk.
Mayor Spencer Coyne and challenger Doug Pateman took turns at addressing the issues of business supports, the growing problem of homelessness and addiction in Princeton, the importance of tourism and the desperate need for housing.
“Housing is number one, housing and infrastructure. When we took over (in 2018) we had a huge deficit (of both),” said Coyne.
Between two future developments “there are 500 new doors in one stage or another.”
“That’s wonderful to hear but nobody knows what the plan is,” said Pateman. “We don’t have any clear direction from council.”
Coyne responded that real estate discussions with private developers are kept confidential during negotiations.
Both claimed a hand in promoting Princeton as a tourist destination. Pateman said the previous council did a lot of work with attracting visitors to events and promoting outdoor opportunities.
Coyne pointed out the current council has directed downtown enhancements and marketing programs.
Following the debate members of the audience were permitted to ask questions.
Wednesday, Oct. 5 a forum will be held for candidates for council and school district. That event begins at 7 p.m. at the Princeton Legion.
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