The very complex tiers that divvy up taxes from a $810-million asset in the area has grounded Trail’s bid for boundary expansion to a temporary halt.
The province’s decision to delay the process for the city to envelop the Waneta Dam and Columbia Garden’s Industrial Park came as great disappointment to Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs, but the news wasn’t too surprising for a regional district director.
“This is a very long process that requires extensive conversation among the stakeholders in order to understand and address all impacts,” said Ali Grieve, Area A director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary (RDKB).
“To date, we have had no formal meeting with the city to discuss any mitigation issues.”
After meeting with local leaders in June, Minister of Community, Sports and Cultural Development, Coralee Oakes, acknowledged the strides Trail has made laying groundwork for “potential governance change in the area,” in a July 14 letter to the city and regional district, but she said it is essential to build a shared understanding among all involved, including property owners impacted by an extension, city residents and affected local governments.
Oakes stated in her correspondence to both parties that the boundary proposal encroaches on the Nov. 15 civic election process and would not be considered on a legislative level until after that date.
She wrote that legislative changes are necessary to ensure continuity of tax treatment of the Waneta Dam, “if it were within city limits, given the unique ownership structure of that asset between BC Hydro and Teck.”
Further, Oakes said that the necessary provincial decisions and “legal instruments” could not be in place for a governance change this fall.
“This is very disappointing news,” said Bogs. “A considerable amount of time and work has gone into this initiative so it’s really going to be a shame to think that we are going to have to shelve it (until after the election).”
This week, Trail council opted to keep legally moving forward, though face-to-face mitigation talks with the RDKB’s appointed committee is on hold pending further communication with the province and Teck.
“Depending on timing, mitigation may be best addressed in early 2015, following the local government elections,” confirmed David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer.
During Monday night’s regular meeting, Trail council unanimously agreed to reply to Oakes’ position and request that timing for legislative changes be advanced so the matter could move forward before the municipal elections.
In the interim, discussions are ongoing between the province, Trail and Teck Metals, Perehudoff told the Trail Times, adding that those talks pertain to finalizing the Supplementary Letters Patent.
He said the city is seeking clarification that if issues are resolved prior to the election that the current council can pass its final resolution asking for the boundary extension to be approved.
“If this can be facilitated then any final matters can be addressed in the interim,” he noted. “And would wait to be dealt with in the spring 2015 legislative session.”
Grieve said, she agrees with the city’s position to delay mitigation talks, however, the inclusive communication between the province, city and regional district is a positive step forward.
“We were both having our own conversations with the province, saying the province told us this, or the province told us that,” Grieve explained. “During the minister’s visit, we asked the province to share the same information to the same people at the same time. So I’m really happy we received this letter together.”