The city has decided to move on.
At the end of the day it was language or lack thereof in the Supplementary Letters Patent, or SLP, that had Trail withdrawing from a boundary expansion into Columbia Gardens Industrial Park and south to the international border.
After years and much expense Trail council announced late Thursday afternoon that the city was dropping its initiative for the most part because current SLP framework could not accommodate specific conditions Teck was seeking.
“Teck worked directly with the province and the city as part of establishing property tax and regulatory limitations where they were comfortable with the lands falling under the City of Trail’s jurisdiction,” said Trail Mayor Mike Martin. “After several years of talks, the province indicated they could not specifically address many of the limitations advanced by Teck within the SLP and would only write the SLP based on a conventional approach used in other similar initiatives throughout the province. After review, Teck unfortunately indicated they were not in a position to proceed; hence, council made the decision to abandon the process.”
But what exactly is an 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.
As part of the consultation process, the city entered into discussions with Teck Metals Ltd., the majority landowner in the area, Mayor Mike Martin noted.
“As the majority property owner, it was imperative that Teck was fully on board and supportive of the initiative. The city and Teck were able to successfully negotiate a Partnering Agreement that was the underpinning needed from the perspective of the company in order to move the process forward.”
Back in 2013, the city and Teck reached an agreement that would have reduced Teck Trail’s municipal taxes over time.
Trail would have benefited with a one-time community investment of $1 million for economic development plus a 20-year commitment of $225,000 per year, indexed for inflation, to focus on the economy and diversification.
The taxation limitations that were sought were more or less standard for a boundary extension of this nature, Martin said.
“In this regard, property tax rates for Classes 2, 4, and 5 would be limited to the lesser of the provincial rural property tax rate and the City of Trail rate,” he added. “It is noted that Trail’s Class 5 light industrial rate is actually lower than the provincial rate and owners of property in this rate class would have benefited further had the extension proceeded.”
Another roadblock deals with “regulatory limitations,” said Martin.
“Teck was seeking limitations dealing with additional powers that a municipality and municipal government has over and above the powers that the regional district has and further how these powers may be used,” he explained. “In this context they were concerned about the potential negative impacts that any municipal regulations would have on its operations and possibly hindering it.”
Teck had advanced specific language to address their concerns but the province was unable to accommodate this within the Supplementary Letters Patent and rather suggested an alternate approach and framework that did not offer the legal certainty that Teck was hoping to achieve.
“The primary concern of the province was establishing a significant precedent for industry and local government in future boundary extension proposals,” Martin concluded. “And restricting the ability of the city to effectively respond to emerging situations through binding councils, both present and future, from passing any relevant bylaws affecting Teck’s properties within the area of extension.”
Martin summarized that, “Council is greatly disappointed in the outcome and made every effort to try to keep the initiative on track. A successful outcome could well have been of major benefit to the entire region. With this decision made, the city now needs to focus its resources on areas where there is greater control and more certainty associated with the end result.”
Legalese aside, the area’s current authority, the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, is pleased to see the boundary expansion proposal come to this end.
“Oh behalf of Beaver Valley residents, I am relieved that this initiative has finally reached its conclusion,” says RDKB Area A Director Ali Grieve.
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