Happy New Year!
The end of 2023 marks our first year as District of Sicamous council and my first year serving as mayor. It has been a busy year of change, with many achievements to celebrate as a community.
As a new council, we started our term by defining strategic priorities for our community. Council chose six strategic priority areas, including municipal assets, health and wellness, housing, community safety, recreation and tourism and economic growth.
Community health care and the Shuswap Healing Centre continued to be a priority for our community. Keeping health care local and accessible for residents is important to council. The Shuswap Healing Centre will house our medical clinic, a traditional healing space and other health and wellness providers. An expression of interest was sent out to be part of the facility and the response has been very positive. District staff have shown financial responsibility, creating reserve funds to support the project.
Last month, council approved the budget for the site works and building shell of the Shuswap Healing Centre and construction is anticipated to begin in early 2024. To combat rising construction costs, we locked in the exterior construction budget and are fortunate to have the build fully funded by grants and capital reserves. The Sicamous Community Health Centre and Shuswap Healing Centre represent an investment in community health and support Sicamous’ “Live More Live Well Strategy”.
Council and staff have made huge strides in housing for our community. We are contributing District-owned land to support multiple long-term housing options in Sicamous. Eagle Valley Senior Citizen’s Housing Society and BC Housing will build 37 units of affordable housing for seniors on one acre. The District is also working with Western Canadian Properties Group Ltd. to build long-term rental housing on 425 Main Street. The proposal includes a central, mixed-use apartment complex with one- and two-bedroom apartments and 3,900 square feet of commercial space on the main floor. This proposal has been crafted to cater to a diverse range of “missing middle” families and individuals. With an emphasis on efficiency and affordability, the project is intended to deliver safe and comfortable long-term rental housing in Sicamous.
Our outdoor recreation strategy is custom-built for our community. We are investing in a pump track that will be built at Finlayson Park in 2024. This track will be a great addition to our summer unplug-and-play theme and will cater to competitive cyclists, drawing competitive events and visitors to Sicamous. The Province is in the final stages of approval for the Owlhead Mountain Bike Park trails. These trails will be a great attraction for downhill biking enthusiasts. This year, Sicamous’ growing pickleball community was happy to see the addition of new pickleball courts. Tennis court upgrades are planned for 2024!
Construction of the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail on the west side of the Sicamous Narrows will begin in March, starting the connection of Sicamous to Enderby, Vernon, Kelowna, and on to Osoyoos. The Rail Trail will attract tourists and visitors from all over the world and offer outdoor recreation that all of our residents can enjoy. The District is exploring funding opportunities to build a pedestrian bridge over the Sicamous Narrows that would connect our downtown to the west side of Sicamous and the Rail Trail system.
We have invested in our municipal assets, including the water main upgrade on Kappel Street. Phase two of the upgrade on Riverside Avenue will take place in 2024. The Community Bio-Heat Facility was fully commissioned in October, with the first year of testing underway. We continue to advocate for community safety. This year we lobbied the provincial government to prioritize the replacement of the aging R.W. Bruhn Bridge and increase funding and enforcement to protect our waters from invasive mussels. When the Province introduced decriminalization, the parks bylaw was amended to ban the public consumption of illicit drugs.
Sicamous is growing with ongoing development and new businesses opening their doors! This year, the District issued 95 building permits with a total construction value of $15.7 million. We saw 328 new business licences issued in 2023 (41 short-term rentals) compared to 253 licences last year. Sicamous will also be involved in the 55+ BC Games which are being hosted in Salmon Arm next fall. We will continue to strive to be a year-round destination. We have an amazing network of local not-for-profits and volunteers, whose work is invaluable in our community.
In 2023, we laid down some major groundwork to continue to grow our community and be attractive for new businesses and residents alike. 2024 will be a busy year for Sicamous with a lot of construction in and around town.
On behalf of the District of Sicamous council and staff, I hope you had a safe and enjoyable holiday season with your family and friends. All the very best of health and happiness in 2024!
-Mayor Colleen Anderson