Opinions were split among Strathcona Regional District directors last week on a petition from Quinsam Coal that would take tax revenue from Area D and give it to the City of Campbell River.
Quinsam Coal has signed a purchase agreement to buy a 140-hectare site owned by TimberWest. The property lies within Area D but Quinsam Coal wants to move it into the city boundary.
Campbell River city council supported the request in December and the application was before the Strathcona Regional District board March 26 for its support.
Director Brenda Leigh, who represents Area D, wanted to defer a decision for two months in order for representatives from Quinsam Coal, TimberWest, the Strathcona Regional District, and the city to more thoroughly discuss the application, which Leigh said was lacking in information.
“I would like to know what the details are of this application, who is applying, what the financial impacts will be and what the long-term plan is for these surface coal mines,” Leigh said.
Campbell River Director Andy Adams told Leigh that Quinsam Coal is the applicant.
The organization wants to move the property into the city boundary in order to streamline operations and deal with only one local government – the City of Campbell River, which is where the rest of the mine’s property is located.
Gary Gould, general manger of Quinsam Coal, told the city in a letter that the blocks of land the mine intends to purchase from TimberWest share a common border with lands previously purchased by Quinsam Coal.
As for the financial implications, Adams told Leigh that those were provided by regional district staff in a report to the board.
Russ Hotsenpiller, chief administrative officer of the regional district, reported that a major industrial property, such as the one in question, assessed at $200,000 would contribute roughly $1,200 in taxes to Area D and the loss of that tax revenue would result in an increase of less than $0.01 per $1,000 of assessed property value to the rest of Area D.
But Leigh disputed those numbers, saying she checked with the BC Assessment Authority and “the valuations of the land are not correct.”
Leigh had some directors on her side, but not enough, as the board voted down Leigh’s motion to defer the application.
Instead, directors voted to give support to Quinsam Coal’s proposal, but directors Jim Abram, Noba Anderson, Julie Colborne, Jude Schooner, Gerald Whalley, and Leigh voted in opposition.
Leigh said she has attended several stakeholder meetings surrounding the issue and has several concerns.
“I have been a responsible board member, attending all but (one) technical review meeting,” Leigh said. “I don’t see any other politicians at any other level that have been so religiously attending these meetings. I know what the mine plan is and what the mine permit is going to allow and I want to make sure that everyone involved in the application is aware of how this could affect our watersheds, the Quinsam River, Quinsam Lake, the Campbell River, and possibly even the Iron River.”
Leigh also questioned how many more annexations – though Adams said the Quinsam Coal case is not an annexation – the board would have to go through. Last summer, the city proposed to bring the northern portion of Area D into the city boundary but that was defeated in a referendum.
“Where do these annexations stop? Is this the last one?” Leigh said. “I will be raising my concerns with the (provincial) minister about these annexation proposals and I’ll be voting against this proposal because there’s too little information made available and we don’t know enough about the regional impacts of this, so no – I’m not voting for it.”
Quinsam Coal’s boundary application still needs approval from the province and support from First Nations who will be affected. If the province approves of the proposal, the city will seek the support of voters through the alternative approval process, which will allow the city to proceed with the boundary extension if no more than 10 per cent of voters sign an opposition form.