About a year after it began, the Area C Governance Study is now completed. Following presentation of the final report at the August CSRD Board meeting, three motions were passed unanimously and these were to:
• Endorse the recommendation from the South Shuswap Governance Committee that a restructure study for Area C be undertaken which would examine two options, one being the incorporation of a portion of the electoral area, and the other being a division of Area C into two electoral areas.
• Submit a funding request to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to fund the restructure study.
• Direct CSRD staff to request a meeting with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing at the 2017 UBCM convention to provide an update on the study and to request the funding.
The Area C Governance Study used a robust methodology of education and engagement including committee meetings, a direct mail brochure, online and written surveys, six open houses, an interim report, a panel discussion involving elected officials from Barriere and Kootenay Boundary, newspaper editorials, and website and social media posts.
Our consultants did an excellent job of reviewing local government in B.C., our Regional District model, and Area C demographics, governance, services, land use, costs and cost recovery.
The key feedback from the public engagement process, including surveys and open houses, may be summarized as follows:
• Residents from the smaller communities (eg., White Lake, Eagle Bay, Notch Hill, Sunnybrae, Tappen) were concerned that the level of representation on the CSRD Board may be too large for one director.
For these residents, subdivision of Area C into two electoral areas may address concerns in a more appealing manner than incorporation.
• Level of representation on the CSRD Board, was a concern in all communities and 80 per cent of those surveyed agreed that in order to meet current issues and future challenges Area C needs to have greater influence over CSRD decisions that are specific to the South Shuswap.
• Larger communities such as Blind Bay and Sorrento had greater concerns about level of representation on the CSRD Board as well as autonomy in decision making. Concerns were expressed about directors from other areas making decisions about Area C services.
• Concerns with local services were greater in larger communities and included issues with roads, water, sewer, lake water quality and local policing. These concerns were not related to current service failures, but relate to the idea that the CSRD may not be best suited to meet the expectations of these communities going forward.
• Maintenance and repair of local roads was an important issue in all communities. Expectations for enhanced service exist now and are expected to grow in tandem with further development. It was noted that local road concerns were most effectively managed under a municipal form of government.
•Water and sewers were also cited as being important services and it was noted that grants to provide them may be more readily accessed by a municipality with its own council.
•Residents in Area C are generally aware of costs, but are interested in learning about the costs associated with different governance options.
If approved by the Province, a restructure study will provide the costs associated with each of the options being studied. A restructure study would take about two years to complete, and would likely be funded by the province.
This is an important and exciting development for Area C; as new developments occur they will be covered here in detail in future articles.
-Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.