Chetwynd to Look at Boundary Expansion

Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo
 
CHETWYND – The District of Chetwynd is eyeing two extensions to the municipal boundary in the New Year.
 
Combined, the boundary extensions would result in the District benefiting from upwards of $370,000 in additional tax revenue, preliminary estimates show. 
 
“District Council has determined that certain properties associated with the Willow Creek mine were meant to be included in District Boundaries when a satellite boundary extension was approved in 1996, however, were excluded in error,” a Nov. 23 District memo noted.
 
“Discussions have been held with the current mine owner (Walter Energy), who is in support of a boundary re-adjustment. Meetings have been held and correspondence exchanged in relation to the proposed boundary expansion.”
 
Municipal boundary expansions are under the provincial jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Community, Sport and Cultural Development (MCSCD), Local Government Department.
Mayor Merlin Nichols says he expects the expansion will be approved by the Ministry’s office in Victoria.
 
“We trust that it will. With the provincial government coming to an end here in a few months, if things don’t move along very rapidly it’s going to get caught in the process and won’t happen until later,” he said.
 
“In the case of the mine it’s revenue that’s currently going to the province that could be directed to Chetwynd. Its workers are essentially Chetwynd people.”
 
According to a District of Chetwynd Council agenda report, “In 1996, the satellite boundary extension… somehow missed the main mine assets. The Ministry has advised that a new boundary extension, rather than correction process, is required.”
 
The District has also received a boundary expansion request on behalf of West Fraser Mills Ltd.
 
The request pertains to the inclusion of a parcel of raw land adjoining Chetwynd Forest Industries’ (CFI) – a division of West Fraser Mills Ltd. – current property boundary. CFI seeks the expansion of their property to allow for the construction of a bio-energy facility. 
 
According to CFI’s General Manager Darren Brkic, the next step following the boundary expansion for West Fraser and CFI is to submit an application to the provincial government’s Agricultural Land Commission for realignment to ‘non-farm use’ of the Agricultural Land Reserve’s raw land the company is closing on.
 
According to the District, if the boundary expansions do go ahead, the mine would pay about $350,000 to the District, about $250,000 more than it pays to the province right now. Walter Energy is aware of that, and they wish to support their host community. 
 
West Fraser’s contribution would be  less; in the $15,000–$20,000 range.  
 
Boundaries of every BC municipality are defined in the documents that incorporated each municipality known as a Letters Permit.
 
“Typically, expansions are initiated by property owners who want their parcel of land to be included within a municipality,” MCSCD says. “In some cases, the property owner may feel that the municipality has land use policies that are more suitable for the area than the ones put in place by the regional district.”
 
Although the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) is not prescribed by any legislation to participate in the process, and does not possess a veto on municipal boundary expansions, the regional district has an important role in the boundary expansion process. The PRRD is the governing power for areas outside of municipal boundaries and therefore, the regional districts interests must be considered and municipalities must make their best efforts to accommodate these interests.
 
All available information shows the District has done so, and with respect to these accommodations, the PRRD carried a motion to send a letter of ‘No Objection’ to the District of Chetwynd with regard to the proposed boundary extension/realignment at a Nov. 22 board meeting.
 
“After today we will be assembling a package to go to Victoria. They’ve agreed to work with us towards this boundary expansion process… which allows us to submit applications to start the process,” District Chief Administrative Officer Doug Fleming explained during a Dec. 3 regular Council meeting. 
 
“We have to make referrals to some agencies like Agricultural Lands Commission, Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resources and local First Nations, those will take a couple of weeks to get responses back so we’ve told them that we’re making those referrals.
 
“We’re trying to very quickly fast track this process because there is a pending provincial election and the ministry has agreed to work with us – which is outstanding – to try and move this forward so we can get this approved in time for next years taxation.”
 
Before the MCSCD makes its decision, citizens of the District of Chetwynd will have an opportunity to provide their input for the boundary extension.
 
“Citizens of this community have a right to speak to boundary expansion,” Fleming said. “The Local Government Act (section 20) requires that citizens of the municipality will have the opportunity to object to the proposal,” MCSCD documents state. 
 
The majority of residents must consent to (or not oppose) the proposed extension, according to the MCSCD.
 
“If at least 10 percent of the electors within the municipality request a vote on the proposed boundary extension, then the municipality cannot proceed unless it obtains the support of those electors in a referendum.”
 
“To establish the number of eligible voters for the Alternative Approval Process, both the 2011 Statistics Canada Census Population data and the District’s 2012 Municipal Census data were taken into consideration,” a Council agenda report states.
 
“Using the more conservative Statistics Canada data, the number of eligible municipal electors is calculated as 1971. If less then ten percent of the 1971 eligible municipal electors, which equals 197, submit an Elector Response Form, the boundary extension request will be deemed to have the approval of the electors and the proposal may proceed to the Ministry for consideration.” Citizens can obtain an Elector Response Form from the District office during regular business hours. 
 
A deadline for Elector responses is set for January 22, 2013.