Townsite Ratepayers Society (TRS) says it will continue highlighting interests and concerns of residents in the Powell River neighbourhood after nearly three years of local advocacy.
Officially registered as a not-for-profit society in 2018, TRS formed after an internal dispute within the Townsite Ratepayers Association over that group’s direction and leadership.
A group of eight residents who were involved in the TRA’s waste treatment committee went on to form TRS as a separate organization. They have since advocated on a range of issues, including the consolidated liquid waste plant, the composting facility, heritage standards, speeding on Marine Avenue and the official community plan.
Diana Collicut, president of TRS and Townsite resident since 1993, said the breakaway group formed because they felt the TRA wasn’t focusing on key issues, including the liquid waste plant.
“We branched out on our own and we wanted to focus on the liquid waste plant, and we actually achieved some success there because unfortunately, yes, it is going in the Townsite, but we were actively involved to bring in some important odour control equipment that the city wasn’t planning on putting in,” said Collicut. “We also were pushing adamantly for the plan monitoring committee, which is now up and running, and one of our directors is a member on that, although he’s supposed to represent himself, but it is a Townsite voice.”
With the next local elections just over a year away, Collicutt said the group is discussing what kinds of candidates it will be looking out for on the ballot paper.
“Obviously we’d like to have candidates who see the economic potential of the Townsite and what it holds for the community as a whole,” added Collicutt. “Hopefully we can find somebody, support someone, who has some future vision of some sound economic development and potential housing.”
Stephen Miller, a TRS director and former president, said the group’s purpose is to highlight voices of residents and involve them in local decision-making processes in order to protect “the heritage and beauty of the community.”
One of the most important issues TRS recently advocated on, said Miller, was the location of the composting facility that had been slated to be built on Townsite waterfront lands.
“In the research we had done, we had discovered that the most important thing with building a composting facility is location, and that the location of compost facilities should be away from all neighbourhoods, because there are too many risks with odour control, with leachate, with rats, with airborne pathogens, things like that,” said Miller. “We have done a lot of work with qathet Regional District and the city on that, and we were successful where the regional district then awarded the contract to a company that’s going to end up building the compost facility south of town, away from all neighbourhoods.”
For the past two years, said Miller, TRS has also worked with the city’s planning department on the official community plan (OCP), and the master trails and parks plan.
“Our vision really is to see Townsite be connected to Westview through Millennium Park, and through the 80 acres of golf course lands we have in front of Townsite,” added Miller. “We’ve been working very carefully on trying to define what would be the best for everyone for the 80 acres in front of Townsite, and how should that be developed so it is economically viable for the City of Powell River, as well as really a benefit and a community enhancement for the Townsite community.”
According to Miller, TRS has approximately 35 paid-up members, with that number steadily growing. Membership fees are $10 per year, which Miller said goes toward covering printing costs for mail outs.
“I’ve always been very actively involved with the community, and before I retired for 16 years I was CEO and president of the Easter Seals in BC, and I’ve always loved giving back to the community and working with people in the community,” added Miller. “I believe from the creation of the society in 2018 and our vision, I think we have succeeded in really setting a high bar and a standard for community organizations.”
For his part, Will Van Delft, co-chair of Townsite Ratepayers Association, said his group is also still active.
“TRA has gone through a period of suspended animation because of COVID, but we’re meeting again, and so right now we’re involved in giving input into the official community plans,” he said.
Van Delft said he also lobbied against the location of the waste-treatment facility, and said history will likely prove that building it there was the wrong decision.
“You’re looking at a piece of land there that’s probably the most valuable real estate in this community; it’s empty and everybody wants to fill it with whatever they think is important,” said Van Delft. “Because the waste treatment centre was plunked into the middle of that, it degrades that whole property for future creative solutions, and we need creative solutions.”
Asked what the difference is between TRS and TRA views on the waste-treatment facility, Van Delft said: “There wasn’t any difference. We were working together at that point in time.”