Incorporation Study Update – March 21

By Dave Cunliffe, Chamber of Commerce President
(this is an excerpt from his Kicker article for April ’17)

As I wrote last month, I am personally a member of the incorporation committee.  The Chamber resolved to take a neutral position on the issue but did agree to help with getting out information to the community.  As a result, our web page has been used to post information and all North Shuswap residents are encouraged to view it.

A meeting was held on March 16th between the incorporation committee and our local government represented by Director Morgan, the chief administrative officer, the managers of development services, financial services, and operations.

It was made clear that there is no support for an incorporation study.  The reasons given were that incorporation isn’t financially feasible, there has been mounting opposition from the public, staff is too busy, and that the senior managers are willing to work with the group to address how concerns can be addressed within the current regional district model.

There was no recognition that the 240 letters in favour of a study were a legitimate expression of support.  There were comments that only 80 of the letters were from Scotch Creek and that the opinions of other residents of the North Shuswap shouldn’t have any bearing.  It was pointed out that Scotch Creek was identified as the primary settlement area in our official community plan and the health of Scotch Creek is vital to the overall health of the entire North Shuswap.

So, what did the meeting accomplish?

First, our regional government is willing to move forward with developing a grant application for the start of a community water system in Scotch Creek.  The incorporation group has prepared a conceptual plan to bring water service to the west side of Scotch Creek and given it to operations management.  The next round of grants from the provincial and federal government is in March 2018 so we have a timeline to work with.

The manager of development services is willing to meet with representatives of the group to look at the issue of how regulations can be streamlined to speed up approvals for things like building and development permits.  The meeting is scheduled for April 6th.

The chief administrative officer also suggested that we bring a delegation to the board to talk about our concerns for the future of Scotch Creek and how we think the board can be more responsive to our needs.

Our local government representatives have heard what our concerns are and have made commitments to try to address them.  The group will work with local government to see if positive change can be affected and we appreciate the opportunity.  After all, the motivation to examine incorporation is being driven by a desire to see Scotch Creek prosper.

And the next question, is the move to have an incorporation study carried out dead in the water?  I don’t think so.

I believe we still need to have the study done so residents can make an informed choice as to whether incorporation makes any sense.  The chief administrative officer suggested we look at the recently completed Salt Spring Island incorporation study.  It can be found at http://www.ssiincorporationstudy.com/final-report/ .

It was a good suggestion and I’ve included an outline of the report.

Section 1   provides an introduction to the Report, including a description of What Prompted this Study, its purpose, the geographical boundary of the area included, the Study Committee and process, and key considerations used in the financial analysis.

Section 2   provides a profile of Salt Spring Island, including basic information on population, housing, property assessment, economy and labour force, agriculture, environmental protection and green space, publicly owned assets, and sense of community.

Section 3   provides an overview of the current governance system.

Section 4   presents the potential changes to representation and decision-making if Salt Spring Island were to incorporate.

Section 5   provides a detailed review of potential changes to service delivery and cost impacts if Salt Spring Island were to incorporate.  Risks and opportunities are identified for each service under each form of governance.  For each of 23 services, the information is presented in a summary format (which also attached to the Executive Summary) followed by a detailed explanation of key elements.

Section 6   reviews potential changes to government revenue if Salt Spring Island were to incorporate.

Section 7   identifies the consolidated financial impacts of municipal incorporation.

Section 8   identifies potential changes to property taxation if Salt Spring Island were to incorporate and provides the projected tax impacts of municipal incorporation.

Section 9   examines the risks, opportunities and uncertainties (or variable factors) associated with both the current governance system and the incorporation option.

Section 10   reviews the process of creating a new municipality, should Salt Spring Island choose to incorporate.

These are the same questions that most people have about what the incorporation of Scotch Creek might mean.  I think it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that the request to local government was only to support a study, not to incorporate Scotch Creek.

Tell us what you think at http://scotchcreekbc.ca/

Or comment below…

Letters of Support Received – Still need more

Thanks to all who have provided letters outlining your interest in the Incorporation Study. In a nutshell, 97.4% of the letters we received are in favour of going ahead with the study. There were many reasons given with the top 3 being local control and planning, lack of development & opportunities, our tax dollars should stay local.

There were a few letters in opposition as well, 2.6%. It looks like the big concern here is concern about tax increases, lack of information, and the concern that those working in favour of the study are just in it for themselves.

We have posted a statistical summary of the letters received, on our website. If you wish to see the letters themselves, please email us.

We can still use more, and whether you’re for or against the study, your input is valuable. Here is a blank letter that you could use.

Response from MLA Kyllo

Back in early February we had a meeting with Greg Kyllo where we discussed our situation, expressed our concerns and provided him with a pile of letters of support for the Incorporation Study. The response we received on March 7 follows:

Hi Jeff,
MLA Kyllo has gathered the following information for you with respect to Community Governance, and has asked me to forward to you and your group.
Thanks!
Holly

There are several varieties of study that might be considered by a rural community that is evolving and looking for specific governance and service outcomes. While one of those is an incorporation study, in general this is reserved for communities that have at least 1,000 permanent residents, a diverse property tax base (including a mix of residential, business and industry), and a robust network of local public services (e.g. a single public water system, compact road network, parks and schools, etc.) and have the support of both their electoral area director and the regional district Board. For many rural communities, exploring issues and options within the regional district/electoral area framework may be more timely and less expensive to implement. Given the focus on water and wastewater systems and facilitating development, this may be the case for Scotch Creek.

Here is the link to the document left with you, Managing Changes in Local Government Structure, which outlines the principles of local government restructures in the Province of British Columbia. The guide does a good job of setting context for changes to local government, as it provides insight into the issues and opportunities that may be facing a community as well as describing the governance variations available within the local government system to address different local circumstances.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District Board of Directors have responded to the request from the representatives from Scotch Creek. The Electoral Area Director and staff are willing to meet with community representatives. Ministry staff are here to support that conversation, in particular Ms. Karen Lynch is an experienced senior analyst with the program and has responsibility for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District; she can be reached at 778 698-3229 or via email Karen.Lynch@gov.bc.ca.

INCORPORATION STUDY Q&A

INCORPORATION STUDY.

What does that mean? What we are working towards right now is a study to determine if there is an opportunity for some area, any area, of the North Shuswap to incorporate as an independent municipality (a village). What we need is a provincially funded study that will look at determine what is truly possible, what services and activities an incorporated area would handle. The study will also tell us and what if any costs will be involved. A private study has already been done which shows that Scotch Creek, as the Primary Settlement Area of the North Shuswap, could be a viable incorporated municipality based on the current tax rates.

Incorporation… What is it? Incorporation means that a defined area, say Scotch Creek, becomes it’s own municipality. It then has the ability to plan for the future with decisions made locally by a group of people elected from the community. These people would come from our area, know our area, know the people of the area, and answer to the people of the area every day.

If we say we’re in favour of this, will we become incorporated? No. This is a study only. What we need right now is your support to lobby the province to fund the study of Scotch Creek. Without the information the study will provide, we’ll never know if we can do it ourselves. If the provincial study finds that Scotch Creek could become a village, then there will be a referendum of all those involved to vote YAY or NAY to incorporation.

Can other areas of the North Shuswap become incorporated? That is possible and we will be discussing this with the Ministry. They may not be included in this first study as Scotch Creek is the Primary Settlement Area as designated in our Official Community Plan, but truly, we are interested in looking at all areas of the NS.

What are the benefits of incorporation? The two main benefits are local planning and control, and increased access to provincial and federal grants for infrastructure.

What kind of plans and decisions would we be able to make? Virtually anything. From what changes we want in the parks, to where to put water and sewer pipes. Typically what happens is that we would inherit the bylaws from the regional district and then adapt some, remove some, add what we wanted, and move on from there. Services like solid waste removal (Scotch Creek dump) would likely be contracted to the CSRD as they currently manage that service. Other things like road maintenance and snow clearing would be looked at individually and decisions would be made as to what is in our best interests. The study identifies the costs and benefits for all the local services. There is a transition period between the Regional District running things, to when we would take things over.

What kinds of grants would we be eligible for? Infrastructure is the main area where the North Shuswap needs help. Scotch Creek currently has two waste water treatment plants that drain into the lake. There is no significant industry, no development, no growth, concerns about septic fields and drinking water. So the first goals would be to get some liquid waste treatment online, and a community water system in place.

So if this study happens, will we then be incorporated? No. The study is just the study. It will tell us what is possible. IF the study suggests we’re viable then ultimately the question of whether to incorporate will be put to the people in those areas with a referendum. The people get to choose whether to move ahead with incorporation or not.

How do we get this study done? The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development decides whether to fund the study. They take their cues from the CSRD. Our initial request to the CSRD for support for the study was turned down. We will be meeting with them shortly to further discuss their support. We are also in direct talks with the Ministry, our provincial MLA Greg Kyllo, and our federal MP Mel Arnold.

How can I help? You can write a note of support. It doesn’t have to be long, just a quick note to say you are in favour of the Incorporation Study for Scotch Creek. Even if you’re not in favour, send along a note. Give a couple of reasons and finish the note with your name and contact information. You can send it via email to Info@ScotchCreekBC.ca or drop it in the Kicker boxes in Ross Creek Store, Sunnyside Supermarket, SuperValu, Peoples Drugs or Century 21.

Where can I get more information or get involved? Our new website should be up by the time you read this. Check www.ScotchCreekBC.ca

Incorporation study denied – SA Observer

CSRD directors will not be seeking a formal governance study for the incorporation of Scotch Creek. / CSRD PHOTO

Scotch Creek is to remain unincorporated for the time being.

Columbia Shuswap Regional District directors will not be asking the province to approve a formal governance study for Scotch Creek.

In May 2016, the board considered a letter the North Shuswap Incorporation Feasibility Study Group (NSIFS), requesting support in researching information to better understand opportunities for local governance and the feasibility of incorporation.

Directors also perused a TRUE Consulting proposal and, while they did not formally endorse the proposed study, the board did agree to staff time to assist the consulting team with information gathering.

Undeterred, the Incorporation Feasibility Study Group proceeded with, and paid for a TRUE Consulting report, which was completed in 2016.

In a January 2017 letter to the board, NSIFS chair Jeff Tarry indicated there is a desire for improvements in local services, sewer and water services for the primary settlement area, both for quality of drinking water and ability to expand settlement.

The letter also states the community wants greater control over decisions that affect their area currently made by directors who live more than 250 kilometres away and “who have never likely visited our area.”

Tarry was in attendance at the Jan. 19 board meeting in case the chair authorized directors to ask questions or clarify any issues.

CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton reviewed the report and Tarry’s request, and recommended the board turn down the NSIFS request for several reasons: The report fails to provide sufficient evidence that incorporation of Scotch Creek is feasible or realistic, provides no evidence the North Shuswap’s aspirations and development objectives cannot be achieved through the regional district.

“The study report fails to adequately explain why a change in local governance is needed or should be considered,” he said. “And, in light of other governance study initiatives the CSRD is currently undertaking, the CSRD does not have the resources or capacity to embark on another governance review at this time.”

Directors agreed, but did approve Hamilton’s suggestion that the Area F director and CSRD staff meet with NSIFS reps to better understand why they want to incorporate.

Meeting with MLA Greg Kyllo

Brian Taylor, Sherry Taylor, Craig Spooner and myself met with Greg Kyllo. The main part of the discussion was to do with Scotch Creek Incorporation Study funding.  We wanted to talk to him to see if he could help by talking to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development about funding the study?  He did say that he would talk to the minister with our concerns and see if there has ever been an incorporation study funded and an incorporation of a community without the support of a regional district? In this discussion we talked about the need for more local control and ability to apply for grants to have water and sewer installed. That our community is dying without growth. He has since followed up with me on the 16th and the 23rd saying that he has not been able to meet yet.  A lot of budget meetings.

We did also bring to his attention the APC dissolution. Some discussion did continue on this topic. He was not aware of this and said he would research it further.
I brought up the issue that Area F was not included in the labor market study with Community Futures and Provincial Government grant. He was also going to look into this.
We will be staying in contact with Greg.
(Update: Since this meeting Greg has kept us informed of his progress and we’re waiting to hear of the results of his conversation with Hon. Peter Fassbender, the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development)

Letters of Support needed

We need your help.

In order to show the various ministries and agencies that the North Shuswap population is serious about having this study done, we need letters of support. Just below you’ll find links to general information about the study as well as a template letter of support. You can print that out, fill it out with your own reasons why, or why not, you are supportive of the Incorporation Study.

Please drop them off at any of the Kicker boxes at Ross Creek Store, Sunnyside Supermarket, SuperValu, Peoples Drugs or Century 21.

Notes on Incorporation

Local Incorporation Question & Answers

Blank Letter of Support

CSRD Response and next steps

It was disappointing to receive a flat rejection from the CSRD regarding our request to have them support a Governance Study for the North Shuswap. Certainly, it was not unexpected. This is not the final word on the subject. It is just the beginning of the process.

We have meetings coming up with MLA Greg Kyllo, MP Mel Arnold, and we will be sitting down with the CSRD to discuss where we might go from here. We’ve been 20+ years in the lead up to this point, we now have a report that says we can do it. Our goals are to get some positive action in Scotch Creek and more control over decisions being made on the North Shuswap. We will not stop until this is accomplished, or the community of the North Shuswap tells us to quit.

Next Steps

Now that the preliminary study is done and resulted in a positive outcome, copies of this study have been sent to the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, the CSRD, MLA, MP and other interested persons and groups.  Our goal is to push this forward in any way we can.

Contact has been initiated and followed up with meeting requests to all of the interested government parties. The goal is to initiate a further study overseen by the Ministry. This would incorporate a focus group of community volunteers from various walks of life and backgrounds. Ultimately we anticipate positive results from that study, culminating in a referendum of the community to proceed to incorporation, or not.