General · 26th August 2010
There was a time in my life as a director when we actually could count on meetings not being as frequent during the summer months since many people took summer holidays and were not available. Gone are those days, unfortunately! It seems that we have more meetings and functions to attend this year than any previous year. The business of the SRD has increased significantly partly due to the fact that we had the restructuring taking place over the past year and as it happened we were not up to full staffing until late spring / summer. So to make a long and boring story short, I have been extremely busy and have not even had the time to write a report. I will now attempt to bring you up to speed on at least a few of the things that are going on.
Quathiaski Cove sewer property taxation
This was a topic that was not well advertised and caused some angst among some of the property owners within the sewer service area. It is unfortunate that public notices did not go out when they should have to all of the effected parties. During the past year there was a major breakdown of the sewer plant in the Cove. Repairs were made and since the budget did not include funds for that year to pay for the repairs, the funds had to be collected in this taxation year. This is required under the Local Government Act. I was not in favour of any property tax being added to the users of the service since they already pay an annual user fee for the service. It was explained to me by staff that they had no other option in order to collect the money in this fiscal year and that it must go ahead. I asked for a public meeting to be held and it was already too late to organize that. So I asked for a personal letter to go to each property owner to explain the rationale for the increase. This was done, but once again it was after the fact. The tax notices had already gone out. Staff held a meeting with some of the concerned citizens to give a full explanation and I am told from staff that there seems to be general acceptance for the rationale.
I have told staff that I want to see the property tax portion eliminated in the next budget year. We will see how things transpire.
And while I have your attention on the sewer...
On the SRD board agenda for this Thursday, there is another item that proposes to raise the annual user fee for a residential customer by $39.00 per year. I have expressed my opposition to this proposal due to the fact that it basically proposes to allocate $5,000.00 for staff time to manage the contract that looks after the maintenance of the sewer plant and another $5,000.00 for reserve. Both of these items seem reasonable on the one hand, but premature on the other. I will be voting against this increase on behalf of the present users of the service. I have done my best to deal with eliminating the need for this increase but staff have compelling reasons from their perspective to make the change. I still do not agree with it, with all due respect to staff. I cannot support the increase. Please read on to find out more about why!
More on sewer!
The expansion to the sewer area is finally on its way! It went through the committee and will go through the board on Thursday. There will be properties on the west and east boundaries that are being proposed to be added to the sewer area. This is for a number of reasons. Some have requested to be brought in, some need to be be brought in due to environmental concerns and some of the others, it just makes sense. So, with relation to the previous section on the user fees, I am confident that with the addition of the new properties and the additional user fees from those users, there will be enough to run the system and contribute to a reserve fund without raising the current user fees. Staff tell me that this will not happen soon enough. I respectfully disagree. I think the staff oversight of the contract and the contribution to reserve can wait another year at which time the present user fee rate will cover those costs. And if you are still with me.. Read on! There is more!
Gowlland Harbour Views (Shellinck) Development proposal
The Gowlland Harbour Views proposal has come to the committee and will proceed to the board this month for first and second readings. This is a large development out near April Point and has been in the planning stages for a couple of years. It has about 50 lots proposed (to be phased in) and significant (roughly 50% protected areas or parkland included) green space for the public along with other amenities. There have been two public meetings on Quadra put on by the proponent and many changes have been incorporated due to the public input. The reason I bring this up at this point in the report is, you guessed it, the Q. Cove sewer. There is the possibility of this development having its own on-site sewage treatment. However there is also the possibility of it joining up to the Q. Cove system and injecting significant funds into that system and also adding 50 users over time, thus reducing the cost of running the plant to the rest of the users. I realize that this is all getting very complex. Just try and imagine being on my end of this! It is like a juggler trying to keep 6 balls in the air at once.. no, make that flaming swords!
Now we come to the final part of this puzzle. There has been a study in the works for the past three years to look at putting in a sewer system in the Heriot Bay area. There have been two public meetings on this topic, consultants hired using provincial grants to pay for the studies and most recently engineers hired to actually cost it out and look at all feasible options. And guess what option they are favouring? The most recent study has the sewer being brought from Heriot Bay to the Quathiaski Cove plant, rather than a stand alone sewer plant in Heriot Bay with its own outfall beyond Rebecca Spit.
So the SRD is expending considerable effort to try and bring all of the initiatives that have been on the table for years to the forefront at this time. And I commend them for that. I have been hounding them to the point of distraction to get on with the studies so that we will know which direction we are going and when. And here we are.. all at once, of course! Area C is taking up considerable time at the SRD. Our entire Electoral Area Services Committee agenda for August was about Area C issues!
And the last Q. Cove item for now
The Quathiaski Cove Village Planning process has come to the end of its six month "guided" process with our excellent facilitator, David Rousseau. We have had four public meetings and countless steering committee meetings and more emails than I care to remember. It has now been handed off to the SRD planners to put it into some sort of an OCP amendment that we can call a Neighbourhood Plan for the Cove. That happened at the last committee meeting and will go to the board next. We will come back to the community in the fall with the first draft of that bylaw to get community feedback. This has been an incredible community effort and will lead to many amenities for this community, especially in the way of an increase in housing options for all ages, especially seniors. So stay tuned!
In the meantime...
I have been to Vancouver on two separate "lobby" trips in the past three weeks. Both were for light stations and keeping them staffed. This is a board policy and also a policy of the UBCM and the FCM. The first trip was a two day whirlwind schedule of meetings with all of the major shipping industry representatives: the Council of Marine Carriers, the BC Coastal Pilots, the International Ship-owners Alliance, and the Washington Group (owners of Seaspan International), and the second one was to attend a private function with the Prime Minister, along with many Ministers, MP's Senators and MLA's. I was able to get time with all of them, including the PM! My travel was sponsored by the light keepers.
And closer to home...
I have been appointed by our SRD board to sit on the Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area (how is that for a mouthful?). This initiative covers the marine areas from below Cape Mudge all the way to the Alaska boarder. It includes all of the water areas of Area C and the rest of our SRD marine areas. I have attended there first two day meeting in Campbell River on June 28 /29 and will attend the next one in Prince Rupert on Sept. 19 / 20 / 21. I will keep you up to date on any progress made. This process is the marine component follow up to the land planning exercise that I participated in for almost 5 years called the Central Coast Land and Resource Management Plan. This process has a two year sunset clause in it. So it will not go on forever!
And one more thing...
I am entering into a full court press to get high speed internet service for the entire island. The government promised this for ALL rural areas a few years ago. They have had enough time. I think it is unfair that some islanders have next to no service and I intend to do everything possible to improve all options.
So I think that brings me up to about 9 or 10 or more flaming swords all in the air at once. I hope at least some of you have stayed with me to this point. I realize this is a lot of information at one time, but that is the way I am dealing with it and I am trying to keep you informed as I go. There are more items to report on but I have probably taken up more space than I am allotted. More to follow.
And that is definitely it for this report! I am out of breath just recounting it let alone doing it all.... Feel free to call me between the hours of 8:30 am and 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends, folks!) at 285-3355, or you can fax me at 285-3533 or you can email me anytime at jimabramxplornet.ca , or by mail at Box 278 in the Cove, V0P 1N0.... Lots of choices.
Please note my new email address.
Director, Discovery Islands - Mainland Inlets (Area C), SRD