Bob Solc wants his neighbours to open up and share their problems – even if it means he’s in for a long night.
Solc, along with friends Pat Evans, who owns the Shelter Point Distillery in Oyster River, and Rod Nugent, a retired Campbell River dentist, have formed an Area D Ratepayers group to encourage people to speak up and be heard.
The big kick-off is Dec. 11, 7 p.m. at the Oyster Bay Resorts when the first ratepayers meeting will be held and the group is officially formed.
“We hope people will each bring four or five issues,” said Solc at his Area D home, just across from Oyster Bay, which he built four years ago. “If we can get 50 or 100 people crowded into Oyster Bay Resorts, fantastic. The more issues bring forward, the better. “
Solc said while the group’s focused issues will be generated by its members there are three issues top of mind.
“We’ve talked to numerous people in the area here and it’s been on the agenda for 20 years to get a community centre for social functions, a farmer’s market, or a community dance,” Solc said. “There’s so many things a local community centre can offer a community.”
Number two is less taxes.
“For the last 20 years our local director has been able to keep taxes flat or with a minimal increase every year,” Solc said. “We’re trying to come at it from a different stand point. Let’s get taxes down. People want to get fair services for a fair tax burden.”
The third is sewers.
The city of Campbell River is considering annexing the northern portion of Area D (Crawford Road area) in order to hook up homes to the city’s sewer service.
Solc said he’d like to see the city include the ratepayers group in its planning and consultation and have both sides work together. The goal of the ratepayers is to improve the quality of life for residents in Area D, which stretches to the north of the Oyster River to Ocean Grove Road and west to the boundary of Strathcona Provincial Park.
That goal happens to be similar to the vision statement of the Strathcona Regional District which governs Area D.
“Our vision statement is almost identical to the regional district’s,” Solc said. “What they’re trying to accomplish is what is identical to what we’re trying to accomplish, so we should be able to work together.”
Solc said the group also intends to work with the regional director, Brenda Leigh.
Leigh said she met with the group’s founding members last week and “was interested to hear their ideas and perspectives on local government. As I explained to them, I believe that we live in a spectacular community.”
Solc wants to ensure it remains that way. One of the things he would like to see is more open lines of communication between the residents and the local director and between the neighbours themselves.
“We would like our director to put out a monthly newsletter,” Solc said. “People want to know what’s happening in their area, so we’re going to request that of our local director.”
Leigh acknowledged that she does regularly put out a newsletter once or twice a year, as the budget permits, and the next one will be coming out in December. Leigh noted she also submits press releases and letters to the editor to the newspapers when an Area D issue needs addressing. As for communication between the neighbours, Solc said the group plans to put out its own newsletters once a month.
Solc is encouraging everyone in Area D over 18 years of age to join the ratepayers at their inaugural meeting on Dec. 11. There is no charge to join the group, but donations are being accepted.