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Residents voice concerns with city annexation proposal

Remaining Area D residents could be on the hook for lost tax dollars if some Area D residents join the city of Campbell River
Around 200 residents listen intently to a presentation Thursday evening at Ocean Grove Elementary from Urban Systems Consulting concerning the city’s proposal to extend its southern boundary.

Remaining Area D residents could be on the hook for lost tax dollars if some Area D residents join the city of Campbell River.

Dan Wong, a consultant with Urban Systems which has studied the impacts of the city extending its southern boundary, told roughly 200 residents who attended a public information session Feb. 27 that taxpayers could potentially pick up the slack.

Wong said the loss of Area D properties that the city is considering annexing would cost the remaining Area D residents $122,000 per year in lost revenue. Wong also said, however, that there are precedents set that could see the province step up to compensate affected taxpayers.

Rod Nugent, chair of the Area D Ratepayers Association and who attended the open house at Ocean Grove Elementary, said Wong spoke to the group assembled for several hours to review projected costs and financing details of the project.

“Most attendees were there to get more information on the city’s proposal,” Nugent said. “However, there were several people who expressed their hostility to the whole concept of annexation by the city and suggested the city of Campbell River was simply engineering a land and tax grab.”

One concerned resident said many living in Area D want sewers but do not want to join the city.

He thought the best solution was the one proposed a year and a half ago.

In 2011, the city and the Strathcona Regional District were negotiating a deal that would see the city contract out its sewer service to Area D residents.

However, the city pulled out of those talks in the summer of 2012.

The city had sent the regional district a proposal to provide sewer service as part of a master service agreement that would also cover transit and water supply, with comparable costs for city and Area D residents. But the regional district wanted a separate agreement for each service, according to a city news release.

In the end, council believed it was unfair for the city to pay for the costs to extend its sewer service and not re-coup those costs, as Area D residents do not pay development cost charges.

“For the city to provide sewer service to Area D, upgrades to the city’s existing sewer system would be required, and it is the city’s view that these costs should be recovered,” said Coun. Mary Storry in a July 2012 news release. “Council also agreed it would be inappropriate to subsidize development outside the city.”

So the city pulled its offer and months later proposed expanding the city boundary into Area D to provide those properties with city sewer service.

But Area D Director Brenda Leigh has said that her constituents don’t want to join the city as they don’t want to give up their rural lifestyle and pay taxes at the higher city rate.

The city maintains it is sticking with its annexation proposal because of health issues.

According to the city’s website, the city is exploring a boundary extension to address “known environmental and public health concerns related to failing and potentially failing septic systems, and ensure a more co-ordinated approach to growth and development.”

But Nancy Clements from Vancouver Island Health and who attended Thursday’s public meeting said that there are no current studies of the health-related issues connected to Area D septic systems – the most recent date back at least five years.

Residents at the public meeting also heard that affected Area D residents, and only those living on properties tagged for annexation, will be allowed to vote in a referendum that is likely to happen this fall.

Leigh said at Thursdays regional district board meeting that her constituents all want to have a say.

“I’ve been told they want a referendum for all of Area D because it affects all of Area D,” Leigh said.

But Russ Hotsenpiller, CAO of the regional district, said only those potentially going in would be allowed to vote.