Another stormy November day! Forced me to stay inside and deal with office work. Now if the power will just stay on!
Life in local government these past weeks has been just incredible. I am not sure what is going on but there literally are not enough hours in any day to deal with all of the local issues, the Board issues and then the other lobbying issues that effect us. But I have to do it! It is second nature.
I mentioned in my last report about my successes at the UBCM Conference in the way of procuring $1.4 million dollars in grant funding and $550,000.00 in savings of Gas Tax money all for the Q. Cove sewer system. By the time you read this we will have finished the by-law process to proceed with the project now that we have the money in the bank. The plan is to have the 47 properties hooked up by June.
I also mentioned the other big grant that I was going after and I will repeat here to jog your memory:
"We had a failed application for funding for a seismic upgrade to the Quadra Community Centre last year even though we have been told by the province that we needed to do it. I met with Ministries and Ministers on this in the past year with no success. The main reason this is so important, other than the obvious, is that the Community Centre is our Emergency Response Reception Centre. We have reapplied for the grant which could go as high as $500,000.00. While at UBCM I met with my good friend Minister Todd Stone (of Ferries fame). His Ministry is in charge of this file. I explained the dire situation to him and he was extremely receptive! (I almost died). He said “We need to take another look at this". He told me to be in touch when I got home from UBCM. So on Monday I sent an email to his office to get the process started. I got an email back the same day asking me to send a few lines describing the situation, which I did. I got an email reply the very next day (Tuesday) to say that they were working on setting up a meeting for me! Wow! Knock my socks off!. So as soon as I get a date, I will be heading to Victoria hoping for more money for Quadra!”
I only bring this up because my efforts at getting the meeting mentioned above have been successful and I meet with all the top brass at the Ministry of Transportation in Nanaimo on December 2nd. I am preparing a brief for their re-consideration and since the Ministry is sending people from Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo, I think they are seriously looking at a reconsideration of roughly $400,000.00 dollars of needed money for the Community Centre seismic upgrades. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed, please! We really need that money since our tax base cannot support it.
Another positive piece of news is that the Annual User Fees for the Cove sewer system were slated to rise by about $45.00 for this next year. I absolutely refused to allow it. Staff went back to the drawing board and came back with an even higher number. I had to once again refuse to allow it. According to our Chief Administrative Officer it is going to remain the same due to my objections. Great! I am banking on the new 47 properties to add to the fees needed and cover the budget. We will run a small deficit this coming year and if my plan does not work.. well, then we have to raise the amount of the fees in the next year. I believe it is a safe gamble. We’ll see. I hope you are with me on this. (This only effects the users within the Q. Cove Sewer District).
We have been having lots of fun with wharf issues in the outer islands. Delays on renovations to the Evans Bay wharf due to Federal Bureaucracy, lease issues at Surge Narrows due to trespass. Lease issues at Owen Bay on Sonora Island due to senior government issues.The list goes on!
As an outer island issue, I would like to inform you of an email I got today after I filed a complaint with the SRD. The issue was a rezoning that brought in a packed house (over 60 people) at Surge Narrows regarding a proposal on North Rendezvous Island. The rezoning was turned down unanimously by the people and the Directors followed suit at the next Board meeting. End of story.. not so fast. So, the proponent did what he is entitled to do and went to the Board of Variance, which is a separate body from the SRD and we have no control over them. The email response I got in answer to my question on how this could happen, follows:
"Thank you for your email and concerns expressed. Please allow me to clarify a few points stemming from your email below.
The most important one is that the Board of Variance (BoV) hearing scheduled for tomorrow cannot be cancelled as it is imbedded in the Local Government Act (LGA) provisions and therefore has to continue as scheduled. To clarify the process, please note a few of the following sections of the act:
Under Division 15 of the Local Government Act (LGA), a Board of Variance (BoV) must be established by local governments that meet certain criteria. In meeting these criteria it is mandatory for the SRD to establish a BoV with three members. The SRD met this legal obligation when earlier this year, the SRD Board appointed three members to serve on the BoV. The purpose of the BoV is to be a separate body that function independently from the SRD Board. Therefore officers and employees of SRD, members of APCs, and members the SRD Board are ineligible to be appointed to a BoV.
The applicant is not “by-passing the process” as indicated in your email below. This past year, the SRD received two different applications from Urban Wilderness:
· The first one was an application to amend the Area ‘J’ Rural Land Use Bylaw to rezone a portion of the foreshore to bring it into compliance with the subject Land Use Bylaw. The SRD Board did not support the proposed bylaw amendment. That file is closed.
· The second application that is now being processed, is a Board of Variance application, received in accordance with s.542 of the LGA to relieve hardship and allow an exemption from s 531 (1) [alteration or addition while non-conforming use continued].
Although it may not be the will of the Director or the Board, do know that the Regional District is bound by the LGA and does not have the authority to reject receipt of a BOV application.”
I am sure that the people in the area will be terribly impressed should the Board of Variance come out in his favour. We can only wait and see. I have no control over the outcome.
Ongoing and upcoming issues include but are not limited to: still fighting the “Pay Parking” issue at our Hospitals (meeting of the Hospital Board on Thursday), meeting with residents and staff re: a water access sign placement in Open Bay; dealing with an Emergency boat dock and access in Open Bay in case of people being cut off (i.e. road collapse last month); The usual continual road issue complaints; of course our main Marine highway infrastructure called BC Ferries. I will be attending Remembrance Day Ceremonies at the Legion; three days in Vancouver for the UBCM Executive as Director at Large; Attending as the SRD/UBCM rep. on the Aquaculture Marine Advisory Committee of the Federal Govt. in Richmond. The SRD had a Governance workshop in Oyster Bay with a facilitator (so things wouldn’t get too nasty!); Attended a two day meeting as the SRD rep. on the Marine Area Planning Partnership, a process of the Province and First nations along with stakeholders from all sectors. I continue to plague companies about high-speed internet on the Island. Working on the implementation of the Q. Cove Village Plan with all parties to try and get it off the ground (and having some success). The next two days will be spent in the Electoral Area Services Committee and the SRD Board meetings and then the Comox Valley Regional Solid Waste Committee and the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District. Never a dull moment. All of the other times are filled in talking to many of you on the phone or emailing. And I love it! So I am going to stop there since I have just made myself tired seeing all of this in one place!
So… feel free to contact me between the hours of 8:30 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday (please, not on weekends or holidays, 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… or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JimAbram…
. If it is important, my cell is 250-830-8005… Lots of choices.
Please do not use my residential phone number for SRD calls. All business calls should be on 285-3355. Many thanks!