Trail is inching its way closer to extending its municipal boundary to encompass the Waneta industrial park.
But the city isn’t in a position to proceed without gauging its residents first, which Trail council decided to do Thursday through an alternative approval process that gives electors 30 days to rally against the proposal via petition.
“We’ve been looking at this for two and half years, actually I’ve envisioned it for 10 years now or more, and here’s an opportunity . . . to advance the entire region,” said Coun. Robert Cacchioni during the special meeting. “I don’t look at it as a Trail initiative, I look at it as an initiative that’s going to stabilize the economy and improve the economy of the entire region for the next 20 years.”
The report presented to council points to an overall net gain of $1.6 million over a five-year period, along with other benefits such as an opportunity to maximize the utility of the land through potential infrastructure improvements, which could attract investors to develop and eventually create more jobs. In addition, it notes reduced costs for the property owners and planning and policy guidelines that take a “business friendly” approach to development and a long-term partnership with Teck.
The city previously entered into negotiations with Teck Metals Ltd. with specific conditions associated with approval to proceed as the majority landowner in the area. This resulted in the parties coming to a pending agreement that includes (over the course of five years) locking Teck’s share of tax revenue in at 55 per cent from the current 62; a one-time $1 million community investment by Teck; and an ongoing community investment of $225,000, also focused on economic development.
David Perehudoff, chief administrative officer, said this is a positive partnership that addresses industrial taxation that is brought up time and again at the provincial level and during talks at the Union of BC Municipalities.
But this sentiment was not shared across the table. Coun. Gord DeRosa is concerned about the 20-year “tax freeze” that he said could have serious implications down the road.
“I’ve brought this to the attention of staff and council that there are some implications of pollutants that are buried in our community that we may have to remove at our cost and we can’t do it 20 years ahead and one of those pollutants is mercury, which fumes and is slightly soluble in water,” he said to his colleagues. “If it ends up in the river and comes back that we have to remove it, how do we do that?”
He was the only member of council to vote down the alternative approval process motion, stating other issues with the proposal that had him rattled and aggravated when he expressed his points with little to no support from his peers.
He has never agreed with the proposed expansion in the first place, he said, and instead has always stood behind the creation of a district municipality that would benefit the entire region.
The Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has indicated her desire to see this matter concluded this summer ahead of the municipal election in November, hence the special meeting and vote made in absence of Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.
Though the rest of council was comfortable with proceeding without Bogs, who has previously voiced his support of the expansion, DeRosa felt that the community leader should have been in attendance.
“In my 27 years I have never had to make a decision of this magnitude,” he said. “I’m setting the tone for this community for the next 20 years and in the event something dramatic happens and we need to up everybody’s taxes, including and with no disrespect to Teck, we now do not have the means of covering costs of repairs.”
At least 10 per cent of electors must state their disproval of the boundary expansion via signature within 30 days advertised (before July 2), to put a stop to the alternative process.
Trail is currently seeking consent of the property owners in the proposed boundary extension area at this time and looks ahead to mitigation with Area A.