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SRD Directors concerned about public hearing attendance

Final SRD meeting of 2020 held last week
The Strathcona Regional District held their final meeting of the year on Dec. 4. File photo

The Strathcona Regional District held their last meeting of 2020 on Dec. 4.

During the meeting, directors discussed a number of items including candidates for the BC Ferry Authority Board, a water meter station improvement project in Area D and a rezoning and OCP amendment in Area A.

A bylaw to rezone and amend the OCP of Area A, moving from an agricultural zone to an industrial zone was approved and adopted, but not without some discussion from directors. A public hearing was held for the project on Nov. 18, 2020, but that hearing only lasted 15 minutes, with the only non-SRD attendee being the applicant. The bylaw, which is to allow existing industrial operations to continue on the property. The main use of the property is for an auto-wrecking and car parts business, and the property has never been used for agricultural purposes. The property is located on Duncan Bay Road and is adjacent to Campbell River’s city limits near Middle Point Drive.

Directors Brenda Leigh and Noba Anderson were concerned that no members of the public had actually attended the meeting, and wanted to know what options there were to ensure that the public had a chance to speak on the issue.

“A year or so ago when this first came to our attention, there were petitions both for and against signed by many, many, many people, and I wonder what has happened to all of that interest,” Anderson said during the meeting. “I think with the exception of the seniors housing here on Cortes, the public hearings have been very poorly attended since we’ve been doing them online. I don’t know if the others were particularly controversial, but this one certainly was a year ago.”

Leigh said that she had actually heard from a member of the public by voicemail saying that the notification criteria had not been met for the public hearing. Staff assured Leigh that they had indeed followed the rules set out in the Local Government Act concerning public notifications. Director Jim Abram also spoke, telling Leigh that since the public hearing was over it was “inappropriate” that directors receive any new information on the issue. Staff also received a submission after the public hearing on the matter, but did not submit it to the public record or to board directors because the hearing had already taken place.

“Everybody had proper notification and opportunity to put in their comments well ahead of time. I don’t believe that someone didn’t pick up their mail on time,” said Director Gerald Whalley, who represents Electoral Area A and chaired the public hearing. “That might be their statement, but I don’t believe it.”

Director Abram agreed, adding that “I think it would be totally inappropriate for us, as directors of other electoral areas, to say to [Whalley] ‘we don’t think you did a good enough job on your public hearing process and we want you to go back and do it again.’ I think that’s totally inappropriate and I think the public hearing was done… it’s not the process we would like to have, but it’s the process we are under order to do, so get over it!”

The bylaw was passed and adopted, with Leigh opposed to all three readings and the adoption.

The regional district had announced their call for candidates for the BC Ferry Authority Board position in October, and received two applications, one from Marc Tremblay and one from James Wilson, both of Campbell River. Director Andy Adams moved that Tremblay be appointed as the candidate, but that motion was ruled out of order by chair Brad Unger. The board will be scheduling interviews for the candidates at the Jan. 13, 2021 board meeting.

In Area D, a contract was awarded to Ridgeline Mechanical Ltd. out of Courtenay to do work improving a water meter station. The works are expected to be completed in 100 days, and will have a budget of $439,236.06 including GST and reserves. The project includes two above ground meter stations, as well as the piping and all fittings required. The stations will be connected to the water mains on Highway 19a and McGimpsey Road.

The SRD will reconvene after the holiday break on Jan. 13, 2021.

RELATED: SRD looks into splitting hearings covering OCP and rezoning amendments

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