Strathcona board agrees to cooperate with city request for annexing information

Mayor said the city is only considering annexation as a way to provide sewer service to Area D

The Strathcona Regional District will hand over information the city needs to consider annexing Area D though the area director says her constituents want nothing to do with joining the city.

The board of directors, at its meeting Wednesday afternoon, elected to give the city information such as geospatial data, property assessment value, service budgets and other information as part of an extensive study into the feasibility of the city extending its southern boundary to take in residents between Jubilee Parkway and Henry Road.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh wanted the board to deny the city’s request for information and put an end to the process, saying Area D residents like the rural setting they’ve chosen to make their home.

“We do not want to join Campbell River,” Leigh said. “Every molecule of my body does not want to join Campbell River. I will fight this process. I don’t have anything against Campbell River but I love the countryside, I love our atmosphere, I love the rural character of our community. I think this move by Campbell River is completely disrespectful of me as a director who has served this area, and for the residents.”

Mayor Walter Jakeway took exception to Leigh’s statements and said the city is only considering annexation as a way to provide sewer service to Area D – a service residents indicated they wanted in a 2006 referendum in which residents voted in favour of borrowing money to hook up to the city’s system, though at the time joining the city was not on the table. Rather, the city would have extended its service outside its boundary.

“Campbell River gets nothing by taking over Area D, we’re trying to help Area D get sewer service,” Jakeway said. “If you don’t want your people to ever get sewers, then proceed.”

Other directors were in favour of the regional district providing information to the city but thought the regional district should in turn bill the city for its time.

“If the regional district is going to involve planning staff time, administrative staff time, financial staff time, since the City of Campbell River, which has initiated this move to amalgamation, then the City of Campbell River, or perhaps the province, should be paying for our time,” Director Jim Abram (Quadra Island) said. However, Acting Chief Administrative Officer Tom Yates explained the process would not be “too onerous” and likely would not take too much staff time.

Director Ron Kerr also pointed out that the city pays the bulk of the contributions from all of the electoral areas to the Strathcona Regional District, so the city would potentially be paying itself. A vote on billing the city was subsequently defeated by the board.

But Leigh continued to push for the regional district to not get involved in the city’s business.

“This is a tax raid and nothing more,” Leigh said. “I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a major wake up call for Campbell River when they see the results (of a referendum).”

Director Claire Moglove said it was in Area D’s best interest to have the regional district provide the city with the information so that affected residents can make an informed decision.

“You either want accurate information for the regional district residents or you don’t. This is the most frustrating discussion I’ve had in two weeks,” said Moglove, referencing the stalemate at the last board meeting between the four rural area directors on where to hold a public hearing on Cortes Island. “I know that this subject is quite emotional for Director Leigh. I used to live in Area D so I understand. The residents of Area D need to know, ‘if we join the city our taxes will go up this much or our cost for sewer and water will be this much.’ In order for the information to be accurate, the regional district needs to provide information to the city. If the information does not come from the regional district, the city will get it elsewhere and it may not be accurate.”

A consulting firm will conduct its feasibility study through the summer and then hold a public consultation meeting in the fall.