Campbell River boundary extension puts board in a bind

Regional district staff are looking for direction from the board of directors as to the degree of its involvement

The city is requesting the Strathcona Regional District hand over information relative to the city’s proposal to extend its southern boundary but the regional district is considering its options.

Regional district staff are looking for direction from the board of directors as to the degree of its involvement.

Tom Yates, acting chief administrative officer for the Strathcona Regional District, said the board should be careful not to get too involved.

“The boundary extension proposal is an initiative of the City of Campbell River and it would be inappropriate for the regional district to allow its involvement to be construed as an endorsement of the rationale for the study,” Yates said. “However, it is important that the regional district do its utmost to ensure that information supplied to electors within the proposed extension area is complete and accurate before they are asked to vote on the proposal.”

Yates is recommending the board, which meets today, adopt a limited participation policy; meaning, regional district staff would supply geospatial data, property assessment value, service budgets and other related information to the consulting firm undertaking a feasibility study for the city.

Regional district staff would also review the conclusions reached and proactively engage with provincial officials to ensure the process held true to its objectives.

“In support of a compete and informed process the regional district has a responsibility to provide full and accurate information to the city including, for example, mapping data, applicable bylaws, service details, and operational information,” Yates said. “However, the regional district needs to be cautious that it does not assume too large a role in the process since this is first and foremost a city initiative.”

Yates warned that full participation could potentially jeopardize the relationship between the regional district and its residents which may incorrectly perceive the regional district as being the driver of the boundary extension.

The other option, no participation, would force the city and its consultants to look elsewhere for information the regional district would likely have and could impact the accuracy of the information being collected.

The boundary extension study, which is being conducted by Urban Systems, will look at an array of issues, including the feasibility of the city extending its southern boundary from Jubilee Parkway south to Henry Road. The study will look at governance and the cost to taxpayers both in the city and in Area D, among other things.

After the study is complete, a public consultation period would be held in the fall. Following that, affected Area D residents would vote in a referendum whether they want to join the city  and city residents would likely participate in an Alternate Approval Process, where only those opposed write in to the city.

The boundary extension proposal is being floated by the city in response to some failing sewage systems in Area D. Residents had voted in favour of a referendum in 2006 of borrowing $9,350 for the collection and disposal of sewage.  But the regional district turned down the city’s offer of hooking Area D homes up to the city’s sewer service because the regional district said the city’s asking price was more than what was approved in the referendum.

The city then pulled out of negotiations with the regional district and proposed extending its boundary so Area D properties could join the city and receive city services, such as sewer.

The proposal would incorporate about 1,000 properties from the city boundary at Jubilee Parkway south to Henry Road.

It would allow 2,400 of the total 4,300 Area D population to hook up to the city’s sewer service and get off septic tanks, according to the city.

Whether or not the proposal goes through would likely be decided by late 2013. Area D Director Brenda Leigh, has suggested her constituents would not choose to join the city.

“I do not believe that the people of Area D are interested in being annexed into Campbell River or being governed by them in order to get those services,” Leigh said. “That’s something that the people of Area D should decide after a full and independent presentation of all the factors, and through a referendum.”