Rural directors don’t like meddling

A proposal to include municipalities' POV on planning is shelved by the Strathcona Regional District

Directors on the Strathcona Regional District want the district’s five municipalities to stay out of their business.

At the Nov. 13 board meeting, directors from Areas A, B, C, and D were hesitant to grant the municipalities access to what’s called “Part 26,” a service that deals with land issues in the regional district’s four electoral areas.

The debate was prompted by a report requested by the board from the regional district’s Chief Administrative Officer Russ Hotsenpiller on the implications of including the municipalities in Part 26.

“Since the regional district’s inception in 2008 all five municipalities have chosen to opt out of participating in Part 26 services,” Hotsenpiller said in his report.

He said if the municipalities – Campbell River, Gold River, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos – want to opt into the planning service for electoral areas, the municipality would pay a fee and in return would be eligible to vote on all planning issues on a one director one vote basis.

That would mean directors from Campbell River could vote on whether or not to grant a property re-zoning for someone on Cortes Island.

Hotsenpiller said there is also the option of partial participation, but it’s a more complicated agreement and participation would be up to the discretion of the electoral area directors.

Hotsenpiller did caution that having the municipalities participating in electoral area land use decisions is not a typical practise for the Strathcona Regional District.

“This would be a departure from the historical land use planning regime of the SRD,” Hotsenpiller said. “Having municipal votes contributing to the determination of land use applications in rural areas will represent a change to the general public and there will need to be some caution and consideration given to public education.”

Prior to 2008, when the Strathcona region and Comox Valley were tied together as one regional district, a similar model in which both rural area directors and municipal directors made land use service decisions together did exist.

Jim Abram, director for Area C (Quadra Island/Discovery Islands), said the model “didn’t work” because municipal directors constantly defeated the electoral directors.

“The electoral directors were always out-voted by City of Campbell River directors on all occasions. Campbell River had numerous directors at the table, it wasn’t fair,” Abram said. “It wasn’t a very good model. Nothing against the Campbell River directors on it. Often times we had agreement, but there were times we didn’t and it got heated.”

Brenda Leigh, Area D director (Oyster River, Ocean Grove, Buttle Lake) didn’t think it would be right for the municipalities to make decisions on areas they’re not familiar with.

“I don’t participate in land decisions involving Campbell River, Tahsis or Zeballos and I don’t think, to be fair, they should be making decisions involving mine,” Leigh said.

Noba Anderson, director for Area B (Cortes Island) agreed.

“I think this fundamentally gets away from local control; voting on areas I know little about it,” Anderson said.

In the end, the board shot down a motion to refer the issue to both the municipal services and electoral area services committees for further consideration and no further action was taken.