By Loni Parker
CSRD Director for Area B
I feel privileged to have been acclaimed as the Area B Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District for another term. Over the years that I have been Director I have tried to serve Area residents in a fair and honest fashion. Area B has grown and changed over the years and we have had some challenges.
One challenge we faced in the past was how to deal with impacts to water users when the City of Revelstoke built the ski hill road to mid-station on Mt Mackenzie. After much discussion an agreement was signed by the City and CSRD to address those concerns. Later, when the Master Development Agreement for Mt Mackenzie was signed with the Province, I ensured that a clause would be inserted into the document to deal with that issue should it arise in the future. That time has come and as many of you may know the residents relying on water from Thomas Brook have been negatively impacted. To date I have, and will continue to do my utmost to see a successful resolution to this very stressful situation. To that end I have made a request to the City to consider this special circumstance and to revise their bylaw allowing those residents to receive city water without a boundary extension with no cost to municipal residents. In addition I am working with the Province to ensure that RMR lives up to the terms of their MDA.
The signing of the Master Development Agreement triggered a process to move forward with updating our Planning Bylaw 2200 and we now have a new Official Community Plan. It wasn’t an easy process but I believe it is a well balanced document. The OCP covers Area B in it’s entirety including Mica, Trout Lake, Beaton, and Galena Bay. Area residents will be given an opportunity to review and comment on the zoning bylaw prior to public hearings.
Our Area B Parks and Recreation plan is near completion. We have had a bit of a gap in this process due to staffing changes but I expect to be presenting the plan for public review in the New Year.
Another challenge we face is high Property Assessments. While we have no control over the BC Assessment Authority some residents have successfully appealed their assessments thereby reducing their taxes proportionately. Many of you may have noticed that tax rates for Fire and Recreation services provided by the City of Revelstoke were reduced slightly last year. This was due to a shift from monies received by the BC Hydro Payment-in-lieu of taxes on dams in the CSRD including Mica Dam, which is wholly located in Area B, the largest contributor to the fund. I expect a further reduction this year but the amount will depend on policy discussions with the CSRD Board of Directors. I have been trying since I was elected to have this fund apportioned more to the affected areas and finally have had some success. I will not stop this effort and hope to see further benefits to Area B in the next year.
We have been trying hard to reduce taxation in all of the CSRD. It is difficult to do but one option is to put Building Permits in place. We have no building inspection in the CSRD except in the North Shore of the Shuswap. Consequently there is no way to ensure that buildings are situated with the correct amount of setbacks from the neighbouring properties. This results in a large number of Development Variance Permits, which is costly to the taxpayers. Building Permits would allow for oversight in this regard and would also deal with information regarding Riparian Area Regulations to reduce infractions. The topic of Building Inspection is a contentious one across the CSRD and it should be noted that Building Permits are not related to Building Inspection. To date there has only been preliminary discussion on this topic. To move forward with this initiative there will be public consultation to ensure everyone understands what will be involved in this service and the cost savings associated if it should go ahead.
I have worked with many City Councils during my time in office and I look forward to working with the next one. Rural Revelstoke residents live adjacent to the city but many work in the city and most of us cost share services such as Fire Protection and Parks and Recreation. I should note that, at my request, the Parks and Recreation cost sharing bylaw has been rescinded by the CSRD board as it was long overdue for review. I believe we should cost share but we need clarity and fairness. The review process is now underway.
Over the past three years I have found that communication between the City and Area B has not been optimal. Perhaps this is partly due to the “Committee of the Whole” structure that occurred after the last election. I have always been an advocate of working together to make sure that our community moves forward with the best interests of all of our people, rural and municipal. We have done this in the past and I hope to see a more positive working relationship in the future.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me over the years as your Regional Director. There have been challenges in the past, there are some now and there will be in the future. I look forward to the next three years and will continue to strive to ensure that the best interests of Area B residents are represented as we move forward.
Loni Parker is the director for Area B of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District. She was unopposed for re-election