Minister responds to Trail boundary plan

A ministry letter sent to the Beaver Valley communities set off alarm bells and has a regional district director concerned.

A ministry letter sent to the Beaver Valley communities set off alarm bells and has a regional district director concerned.

Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development encourages both Trail and the valley communities to find a workable solution for the city’s proposed boundary expansion.

For the most part, Oakes suggests the opposing sides arrive at a fair fiscal outcome before issues are brought before her ministry for sub-regional discussion.

Although Oakes writes ministry staff would be “happy” to become involved, the letter addressed to the Beaver Valley has Ali Grieve, Area A’s director troubled.

Grieve delivered that message during the community recreation consultation on Jan. 21, when she stated that 70 per cent of recreational funding comes from the industrial tax base in Area A.

She read Oakes’ reply which stated, “The province of British Columbia would not support a proposal which would impose significantly higher costs on the resident of the Beaver Valley for the same level of service.”

“This is troublesome for me and should be for you,” Grieve told the crowd of 200 residents.

“Oakes implies that a tax increase would be acceptable as long as it is not significant,” she continued. “I would never support a tax increase for any residents in the Beaver Valley for a boundary expansion.”

In a similar letter issued to Trail, Oakes acknowledges the boundary extension is based on economic sustainability for the region and development of lands, but states, “It is important for the city to work to reach an agreement at the local level to mitigate impacts to RDKB services,” adding, “However if an impasse is reached the ministry may provide assistance.”

“Over all, she (Oakes) was supportive, “said David Perehudoff, Trail’s chief administrative officer. “But did note the need to appropriately deal with regional services.”

It’s been eight months since Trail council passed a motion to proceed with the process to expand city boundaries to include 66 parcels of land that run south in Area A through Columbia Gardens to the international border.

At stake is a piece of one of the largest industrial tax bases in the region, the Waneta Dam, a utility that increased in overall assessed value by $24 million last year, due in part to the ongoing expansion project, according to BC Assessment.

Within the next month, the city is expecting to iron out details in all outstanding issues, including mitigation to the regional district before formally submitting the expansion proposal to the province.

Trail’s final proposal package includes a summary of responses received through the referral process and any action that has or will be taken, including the city’s financial offer to deal with mitigating the regional services, and the proposed conditions to be included in the Supplementary Letters Patent (SLP).

The boundary of every municipality is permanent and defined in a document known as Letters Patent.

SLP refers to the amendment of the description to add or delete properties, which can only be changed by Cabinet order.

However, before the proposal reaches that point, Oakes and her staff may indeed become part of the mitigation process because according to Barry McLean’s report, the disparity of lost tax dollars is much higher than outlined in an earlier expansion study completed by Urban Systems on behalf of Trail.

McLean, manager of operations for the Regional District of Central Kootenay, was summoned by the RDKB to respond to Trail’s expansion proposal.

According to McLean, the proposed expansion area represents a significant portion of Area A’s assessment values and the actual loss of taxable assessment is 57 per cent, not 33 per cent as noted in Trail’s report.