In a complete about-face from an earlier memo to the board, Columbia Shuswap Regional District Board chair David Raven announced at Thursday’s meeting that he would not reconsider a rezoning decision regarding the expansion of Blind Bay Resort.
This means the decision the CSRD board made on Jan. 16 to reject Dan Baskill’s application will stand. At that time, the CSRD rural area directors split 3-3 on whether to approve the application and, due to the tie, voting procedure dictates that the application was rejected.
Raven’s decision sparked opposition from Area C (South Shuswap) director Paul Demenok who took the highly unusual step of challenging Raven’s authority as chairperson on this matter.
Saying the voting process on Baskill’s application was flawed, Demenok’s challenge was an attempt to have the board overrule Raven’s decision to refuse reconsideration.
The challenge, which is a procedure in Robert’s Rules of Order, caused a flurry of activity, as CSRD administrative staff had to leave the room to consult with legal counsel as to whether the challenge was valid in this case.
On return, Charles Hamilton, chief administrative officer, told the board that after getting legal advice, it was determined the statutory power of the chair to authorize reconsideration of a vote is unique to that person and could not be challenged.
Raven’s announcement that he would not initiate reconsideration of the decision elicited audible gasps from people in the gallery, especially in light of his previous memo indicating he would do so.
“As chair, my concern is the integrity of the process. Was it fair, defendable and appropriate? I do not personally have a dog in this fight,” Raven told the assembled board members and the overflowing gallery. “My determination is that this decision was made in an appropriate manner by the board. The process that was followed was defendable and the decision is defendable.
“My decision is there will not be a re-vote. There is no reason to expose the board to the legal risk of a re-vote,” Raven said.
There was significant representation from both sides of the debate over the re-zoning at the meeting. A group of citizens were in the gallery, as well as a contingent of people carrying brightly coloured signs who marched along the sidewalk outside the boardroom windows. Many of the messages called attention to the need for growth and development in Area C and expressed outrage at what they believe is the CSRD board’s unfair treatment of Baskill.
Other citizens were in attendance to show support for the decision to deny Baskill’s application. They expressed concerns for water quality in the area and note that this application runs contrary both to the current Area C Official Community Plan, and the newest version which is still in process.
Raven’s decision to let the Jan. 16 vote stand sparked anger from Baskill’s supporters. “You are all corrupt, every last one of you,” someone yelled into the boardroom as observers left the room.
Outside, Baskill called the decision a sad day for every citizen of the CSRD.
“The message that has been sent is that business is not welcome here, that a misinformed, environmentalist agenda has trumped a responsible, ethical business proposal,” said a visibly upset Baskill, as he pointed across the parking lot to his sobbing wife who was surrounded by supporters. “Now I’ve got a wife and kids who have to face that the husband is being forced into bankruptcy.”
Baskill said he is unable to finance a legal challenge to the CSRD decision.
“I don’t have the hundreds of thousands is would take to fight a flawed policy… It would take the people of the area to stand up for what is right, but whether that could be done in time to help Dan Baskill, the damage is already done.”
Some of Baskill’s supporters were suggesting an initiative to incorporate the Sorrento-Blind Bay area into its own municipality. This appeared to be something Raven also addressed in his statement, noting it was unfortunate that Area C only has one director for the size of the population and amount of commerce in the area.
“To have all the pressure on one director is very difficult,” he said.