Strathcona Regional District director Brenda Leigh is confident residents south of the city limits will not elect to join the City of Campbell River in order to get sewer service.
The city announced last week it had entered into preliminary discussions with the province to look into expanding the city boundaries to solve the problem of failing septic tanks in Area D (Crawford Road-Oyster Bay).
Brenda Leigh, who represents Area D at the regional district level, said her constituents do not want the increased costs that come with being within the city limits.
“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. Area D wants basic services at fair prices,” Leigh said in a prepared statement Thursday. “That’s something that the people of Area D should decide after a full and independent presentation of all the factors, and through referendum.”
The city is proposing to incorporate about 1,000 properties from the city boundary at Jubilee Parkway south to Henry Road (including properties fronting Henry Road). The proposal 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, some of which are failing and creating health and environmental concerns.
But the proposal can only proceed if residents give their support through a referendum.
“A boundary adjustment would only go ahead if both city and Area D residents in the proposed area support the idea,” Coun. Andy Adams said. “Development in the proposed adjustment area is very similar to residential neighbourhoods inside city boundaries, and the lack of community sewer in this area poses the most risk to public health and the environment.”
Leigh said the city is acting too quickly.
“Based on information provided by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Campbell River council seems to have skipped crucial steps in the process required in any proposed boundary extension,” Leigh said. “Any annexation application will require a comprehensive and independent consultation process in Electoral Area D that would take considerable time and effort to complete.”
Leigh said the city’s proposal was unexpected.
“I actually had no idea that this annexation question would come up,” Leigh said. “Although this proposal by Campbell River has caught me by surprise, I was able to obtain the necessary answers (from Community, Sport and Cultural Minister Bill Bennett) for the people of Area D and they can rest assured that nothing is going to be forced upon them and it may take a few years before the province could complete the required process.”
The city and the Strathcona Regional District have been working for several years to reach an agreement on sewer services for Area D. In 2006, Area D residents voted in a referendum to support the regional district borrowing up to $9,350 for the collection and disposal of sewage. Leigh said the city’s most recent proposal, in Oct. 2011, was more than double what was approved in the referendum and the city pulled out of negotiations after the regional district turned it down.
Meanwhile, Brian Reardon, chief administrative officer for the regional district, was not impressed with how the city has handled the most recent situation.
“It is unfortunate that Campbell River has taken the approach that they have in that a full process of consultation has not occurred,” he said.
But the city says it will consult with affected residents.
“Council agreed that involving the public in the discussion at this time was the right thing to do,” Coun. Mary Storry said. “Whether this idea proceeds or not is really up to the broader community as we recognize and respect the fact that the residents will need to decide whether a boundary adjustment makes sense for them.”
The city says it plans to provide information for Campbell River and Area D residents.