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Area D extension planning likely all for naught, director implies

The regional district is mandated by the province to identify any and all service impacts

Area D director Brenda Leigh tried to delay the Strathcona Regional District’s role in the city’s boundary extension process Thursday, hinting that her constituents will reject joining the city of Campbell River.

The regional district, as governor of Area D, is mandated by the province to identify any and all service impacts that could arise from the city’s proposal to annex 208 northern Area D properties in order to hook them up to city sewer service.

But at Thursday’s board meeting, Leigh wanted the regional district to hold off on reviewing a consultant’s report on the city’s boundary extension proposal.

“I want to defer until the public consultation in Area D is complete,” Leigh said. “The public consultation has just begun. I expect input from my constituents.”

Director and Coun. Claire Moglove asked the board to not defer, noting the regional district is legislated to respond to the consultant’s report and identify any impacts to affected services.

Moglove said the regional district’s input is also vital to the public engagement sessions, so it does not make sense to wait until the public consultation period is over.

“The city wants to have accurate information to take to the citizens and that’s a very important process to go through,” Moglove said. “I think it’s really important that the information from the response of the SRD (Strathcona Regional District) be available to be presented to the constituents.”

But Leigh implied the city is wasting its time and may want to hold off after engaging with Area D residents.

“Campbell River has the option, when they hear from Area D residents, to stop the process in its tracks and stop wasting our time and money and our (regional district) staff’s time and money,” Leigh said.

That prompted Russ Hotsenpiller, the regional district’s chief administrative officer, to note that the regional district, with the city’s support, has applied to the province for financial support to hire the expertise needed to complete the report and keep the item cost neutral. But Leigh was doubtful.

“I’ve never seen provincial funding come through in 30 days,” Leigh said. “I feel once the public consultation takes place it’ll be clear whether this moves forward or not. It’s prudent to have the public come out for the public consultation and then if it looks like it was going to move ahead at all – which it probably won’t – then have our staff take on all this time and work.”

Which was when Director Jim Abram (Quadra Island) stepped in.

“As your chair, I’d like to say for clarity’s sake, this is a real chicken and egg situation here,” Abram said. “So I am having a really hard time with this Brenda, sorry. You can still have public hearings, all we’re doing at this point is giving staff the go-ahead to start the process. So (staff) can start looking at what are the ramifications of this proposal.”

In the end, the board voted in favour of having staff move forward with studying the city’s boundary extension proposal so that the regional district can respond. That response will come back to the regional district board at a later date. The regional district is expected to complete its review of the report and its response by March 28.