Town’s planning director Cunningham is fondly remembered as tributes pour in

By on October 4, 2017

Alain Cunningham (left), the longtime director of planning and development for the Town of Osoyoos, passed away last Friday following a brief illness. Cunningham was fondly remembered by his colleagues at Town Hall as a hard working, diligent, funny and intelligent man who was committed to seeing Osoyoos develop and prosper. Cunningham is seen with former mayor Stu Wells on a site near the Southeast Meadowlark subdivision, a project Cunningham spearheaded over the past several years. Phase One of that development, the Richter Property subdivision, began construction recently. Keith Lacey Photo.

The Town of Osoyoos’ longtime director of planning and development is being fondly remembered as an exceptionally hard worker and intellectual who was greatly respected and admired by his family, friends and co-workers.

Alain Cunningham, who had worked for the planning and development department with the Town of Osoyoos for 13 years, passed away late last week after a brief illness.

Cunningham, 73, led the planning department through an unprecedented period of development and growth, said Barry Romanko, the Town’s chief administrative officer during an emotional tribute in front of Mayor Sue McKortoff and members of council at Monday’s regular meeting of council.

“It is with profound sadness that I am informing the community of the passing of planning director, Alain Cunningham,” said Romanko. “Alain passed away Friday, peacefully with his wife Jill at his side, after a short illness. Alain was an employee of the Town for 13 years.

“He provided policy recommendations and planning management in the period of time that the community had experienced its largest growth and development.”

Cunningham brought planning and development expertise to this town that was second to none, said Romanko.

“His passion for planning was displayed in his doctorate level academic background and carried out in contemporary research and report writing that left Council or the CAO with few questions when it came time to make decisions,” he said. “Members of council, CAOs, the public and developers may not have always agreed with Alain when it came to discussing development projects, but you always knew that Alain had the best interests of the community at heart and his position was supported by the most contemporary planning theory.

“He challenged all his colleagues to be the best they could be. Alain didn’t limit his scope of work to only planning matters as he had exceptional project management skills that he brought to the community.”

His most recent successes included working on the fire hall project, implementation of the Meadowlark subdivision, research and development of the Affordable Housing Policy and “near- market” housing program, said Romanko.

“Alain’s planning legacy will live on with the implementation of Southeast Meadowlark Plan he was able to broker with the Agricultural Land Commission that ensured future lands for residential development and community growth,” he said. “Alain was a very private man that enjoyed the fruits of labour on his farm outside of Rock Creek and supported his wife Jill in their efforts to provide a good home for numerous rescue animals. He enjoyed the quiet moments of a cup of tea on his deck looking out on the valley, reading his planning books or sharing conversations with wife Jill.

“Alain will be missed at the management table and by this community. On behalf of all staff I offer my condolences to his wife Jill. May he rest in peace.

Former mayor and town councillor Stu Wells, who spent the last nine years of his career on town council working closely with Cunningham, also praised him as a wonderful planner and even better person.

“Alain was a very thoughtful, very bright and very hard working man,” said Wells.

Cunningham also had a pleasant personality that was often needed on the job as being the manager of a planning and development department is a very demanding and difficult job.

“The nature of the job is that almost everybody you deal with wants something from you … and they all have their own ideas on how the Town should run,” he said. “They want things to go their way when it comes to zoning and things of that nature … and then there’s another group who often aren’t happy when a development project gets approved.

“By the nature of the job it’s a very difficult position and you have to have a certain disposition to handle it and Alain always managed to pull it off.”

Cunningham worked tirelessly on big projects like the Southeast Meadowlark subdivision, which is the largest subdivision project approved in Osoyoos over the past 20 years, said Wells.

Phase One of that project – the Richter Property development – is currently underway with the construction of more than two dozen single-family homes.

When the Southeast Meadowlark subdivision is completed, it will feature close to 400 single-family homes, townhouses, condos and apartment units – and 15 per cent have been deemed affordable housing units.

Wells said Cunningham will be fondly remembered by everyone who got to know him well.

Gerald Davis, the Town’s director of operational services, said he got to know Cunningham since moving to Osoyoos to take his current job more than a dozen years ago.

Cunningham, who had received his doctorate in planning before taking his job in Osoyoos, was a consummate professional and great guy on and off the job, said Davis.

“If I had to describe Alain, I would say he was a deep thinker, very professional, but also a very kind person,” he said. “He also had a sneaky good sense of humour and he would go out of his way to try and make you smile if he knew you were having a bad day.

“He will be sorely missed around here, that’s for sure.”

Cunningham was proud to have played a significant role in the growth of this community for more than a decade, he said.

Not only did Cunningham spearhead efforts to develop major new subdivisions, but he also was involved in the development of Gyro Park, the new pier that will begin construction on Osoyoos Lake next spring and revising the Town’s Official Community Plan, said Davis.

Mayor Sue McKortoff said Cunningham worked very hard for the Town and he helped her on many occasions to understand complex development and planning issues.

“All of us are going to miss Alain … he will definitely be missed,” she said.

Coun. Carol Youngberg echoed the same thoughts.

“It’s a sad day for all of us … I too will definitely miss him.”

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