It was a full house at Tuesday’s council meeting as Area D residents filled council chambers to protest amalgamation with Campbell River.
Stan Zuke and D’Arcy DeHart asked the city to leave Area D alone and questioned the tax figures the city has put forward if Area D residents join the city so they can receive sewer service.
Zuke, one of 673 people who signed a petition registered with the province against joining the city, said he wants to live out the balance of his life in peace.
“I don’t want my streets dug up, I don’t want my cement and my patio dug up and I don’t want my yard destroyed,” said Zuke, who questioned the city’s motivation for offering sewers to Area D. “There’s never been a single septic failure reported to VIHA or to Campbell River. All communications about (septic) malfunctions have been based verbally or perceived. I heard the same arguments in 1982 about fecal count and we’re dying from old age, not from anything else.”
A report from Dan Huang of Urban Systems, the city’s consultant, referenced a 2009 environmental health report prepared for the Strathcona Regional District that revealed 17 of 20 soil samples in the area showed fecal coliform bacteria counts greater than four counts per 100 millilitre.
But DeHart said since that study was done, there’s been many improvements to septic systems in Area D and some have even been replaced.
“It’s about time that information was updated by bona fide engineers and intelligent people,” DeHart said.
Zuke told council that proceeding with extending the city’s sewer service south without hard evidence will put a liability on Campbell River and Area D residents for years to come.
“To expose the Campbell River constituents to a capital project of this magnitude, based on hearsay and very little engineering to support this capital project is cavalier at best,” Zuke said. “Many area residents believe that annexation is a means of increasing the tax base to offset the revenue lost by the Campbell River mill closure.”
DeHart was particularly upset with the city for moving the process along so quickly.
He said it didn’t seem feasible that the city was able to undertake “a significant degree of analysis and outreach” as city staff reported April 10 when the Strathcona Regional District’s impact assessment of the boundary proposal had just been released that same day.
Coun. Claire Moglove said the quick turnaround was possible because the regional district’s impact assessment report and the city consultant’s reports were very similar, save for the fact the city consultant estimated a financial impact of about $123,435 to Area D while the regional district’s report estimated the impact at $127,000 plus a loss of $40,000 in gas tax funding.
But DeHart argued it was more than that.
He said Urban Systems, the city consultant, had Area D average assessed values at $276,000 per residence while the regional district consultant estimated the average value to be $300,000.
“Urban’s numbers are too low,” DeHart said. “Therefore the tax impact on Area D residents is higher than what they’ve been told it’s going to be.”
The city will host two more public open houses prior to a referendum. The next open house will be held April 30 at Oyster Bay Resort from 5-8 p.m.
If Area D residents in the sewer proposal areas vote to join the city, the remaining residents are expected to be on the hook for $34 per year in additional taxes.