Trail expansion plans in the hands of landowners

The latest volley in the match for boundary expansion has landed the ball in the court of Columbia Gardens business owners and residents.

The latest volley in the match for boundary expansion has landed the ball in the court of Columbia Gardens business owners and residents.

Trail city council voted last week to move forward with the Boundary Extension Study, a report that explored the merit and method of the City of Trail extending its corporate boundary into the unincorporated rural area south of the city known as Columbia Gardens.

Although council unanimously supported a recommendation to proceed with the proposed Area A-Columbia Gardens boundary extension, the people of the affected region now need to reply before the process of boundary extension can move to the provincial stage for ratification.

The city has hotly pursued the issue of expansion since it first was examined back in 2004, and expansion remains an important issue for the city in light of the diversification the opportunity affords the city’s tax base, said Trail Mayor Dieter Bogs.

“We feel it is absolutely essentially for the whole future of the Greater Trail area, not just the City of Trail, because we would have the capacity to bring in and diversify our tax base for the whole Greater Trail, in our opinion,” he said.

The study on boundary extension was handed down to council June 11 by Urban Systems, the consultant charged with gathering all of the formal responses from over one dozen or so business owners in the area, as well as around eight residences.

The 2012 study presented looked into the finance, governance and service delivery impacts associated with including portions of the area—that runs along the Columbia River from the city side of Beaver Creek all of the way to the U.S. border —into city limits.

Prior to the study coming to council, the Columbia Gardens landowners were given a feedback form at a May 29 meeting with the city. To date, five responses have been received and all were positive, said Trail chief administrative officer David Perehudoff in his report to council.

However, he cautioned the city not to move forward until feedback from a majority of the owners was received.

There needs to be a majority consensus for the move before the city could take the proposal to the province, he said, and Teck remains the key piece of that process.

Teck is a significant landowner in the area with some of its facilities including the Waneta Dam, owned two-thirds by Teck, and the Waneta Reload Facilities situated in this rural area.

In 2004 it was Teck that put the expansion process on the back burner when it sought additional conditions that were contrary to city council’s legislative authority.

In September, 2012, Trail council received a letter from the landowners in the area asking for council to re-engage the process and embark on the study.

That set in motion the formation of a steering committee—with members from the city, Teck, two industrial landowners, Area A director Ali Grieve and the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary—to provide input on the study as it was compiled.

And the numbers weigh in favour of the City of Trail. Current projections indicate revenue that would come into the city totals $749,704—money now goes to the province—while expenses total $417,113. The net surplus of expansion would generate $332,591 for the city. The city could also gain nearly $77 million in assessment base should a deal go through.

It would also benefit the business owners in the Columbia Gardens. The city’s light industrial property tax rate is currently less than the provincial rural rate, creating financial incentive for the area’s properties to enter into the city fold.

If accepted, expansion gives the city more land and ties light industry into the city, diversifying its tax base

“Trail is land poor … and this would really give us the opportunity to entice entrepreneurs to come and build here and diversify the tax base even further,” said Bogs.

However, Grieve has repeatedly noted there would be a funding shortfall with the current Beaver Valley parks service. With the loss of the assessment base, the area would lose up to $183,449, even with revenue sharing proposed by the city.

Although the amount would be further offset once the Waneta Dam expansion project is complete—an additional $100,000 could come in—the director’s concerns could not stop expansion if the province gave the green light, said Perehudoff.

“The province did indicate that the impacted landowners seeking the expansion would drive the process and if they were in favour of the expansion that it could proceed despite the concerns or objections of the Area A director,” he said in his report.

A report by Urban Systems Ltd. noted the potential loss of $395,000 in revenue to the Beaver Valley Parks and Recreation Function as one of the most significant issues should Area A property owners—including the Trail Airport, the Columbia Gardens Industrial Park, the Waneta Dam and the adjacent lands extending from the current city boundary to the Waneta border—decide to move into city limits.

The Beaver Valley Parks and Recreation Function is a service between Fruitvale, Montrose and Area A that was re-established after regional recreation dissolved in 2009.

Perehudoff said the city could consider developing a proposal to mitigate the impact on the regional service should property owners be interested in moving forward.

City administration was authorized by council to develop, sign and submit a proposal to the province on the expansion. The proposal will be held in until the city receives notification from the majority of the landowners in the area that they wish to proceed.