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Petitioner: Area D residents want to be left alone

“The people of Area D want to be left alone.”

That’s according to resident Stan Zuke who said he has a petition signed by 700 people who feel the same way.

Zuke told directors at last Thursday’s regional district meeting that Area D residents have no interest in amalgamation with the city in order to hook up to Campbell River’s sewer system.

“I wish I could say I’m happy to be here but I’m not,” Zuke said. “The bottom line is we do have a 700 (name) petition registered (with the province) against this.”

Zuke said the city’s main reason for proposing to take in 535 northern Area D properties is health concerns surrounding the area’s septic systems.

But, he said, there has never once been a documented case of septic failure.

“That’s not to say there are no septic problems in Area D but never once has anyone put anything together on paper to say ‘I have a problem,’” Zuke said.

His proposal was to take the $3.4 million sewer grant from the province and put it in a reserve account for individual homeowners to access should their septic systems fail.

That suggestion, however, was quickly quashed when Strathcona Regional District CAO Russ Hotsenpiller said that would “not (be allowed) as I understand the grant process.”

After hearing from Zuke, Area D Director Brenda Leigh urged the city to get on with the referendum to determine once and for all whether Area D residents wish to join the city.

“We have a report from our consultants Circle Square showing that the Campbell River boundary extension proposal will be costly for all electoral areas of our regional district as well as taxpayers in Area D and Campbell River,” Leigh said. “I believe that it is now time to advise the CAO of Campbell River of these impacts and proceed to referendum.”

Director and city councillor Claire Moglove agreed.

“I think it’s time to send this report to Campbell River and get on with the referendum,” said Moglove.

City council, at its Tuesday evening meeting after the Mirror went to press, was expected to make a decision on whether or not to proceed with submitting its final amalgamation application to the province.

If 51 per cent of affected residents vote in favour of joining the city, each property owner will be expected to pay $9,300, as well as a $1,800 connection fee. A third cost, to connect homes to the sewer line, will vary from property to property.

According to the Circle Square consultants report, if the northern portion of Area D joins the city, the remaining residents will be on the hook for an extra $34 annually in taxes while Area A could see an increase of $5.90 and Area B (Cortes Island) and Area C (Quadra Island) could face $10.52 and $9.58 tax increases respectively.

City manager Andy Laidlaw said Campbell River will work with the regional district on mitigating the impacts to Area D which are beyond the threshold for provincial assistance.

“What we’ve determined is the amount of mitigation isn’t a huge amount,” Laidlaw said. “The impacts appear to be quite manageable.”

Leigh, meanwhile, is confident the referendum will not pass and wants to look elsewhere for waste services.

“Once the referendum is dealt with, I am hopeful that Area D will be able to redeploy available finances to focus on more practical, innovative and smaller-scale options for onsite wastewater systems that will better suit the needs of Area D taxpayers,” Leigh said.

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