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qathet Regional District committee votes against proceeding with regional growth strategy

“It would require $100,000 a year for four years and a lot of staff time.” ~ Area C director Clay Brander
DISMISS CONSIDERATION: qathet Regional District Electoral Area C director Clay Brander suggested putting the brakes on development of a regional growth strategy because of the high cost of preparing one, both financially and in terms of staff time.

qathet Regional District’s (qRD) finance committee is recommending the regional board dismiss any consideration of developing a regional growth strategy, based on the significant financial and human resources required.

At a June 22 meeting, directors were presented a recommendation that the committee recommend the board refer consideration of developing a strategy to the next strategic planning session. However, Electoral Area C director Clay Brander moved that the board dismiss consideration.

City director and finance committee chair George Doubt said he wanted to give manager of planning services Laura Roddan an opportunity to address her report before a vote on the motion.

Roddan said there are currently 10 regional growth strategies in the province, all within high growth areas. She said Sunshine Coast Regional District and Cowichan Valley Regional District are both talking with the province about the ideas of putting together regional growth strategies.

Roddan said information she gleaned from talking with the ministry of municipal affairs and regional districts she was able to make contact with, that there are benefits, especially in areas where there are common concerns between member municipalities and the regional district.

“Housing is a big one, development pressure is a big one, economic development and where that is going in the region is another big issue,” said Roddan. “The province would support this regional district doing a regional growth strategy because they do see them as a benefit. However, there is no financial support. There are benefits but the cost is significant.”

In her report to the committee, Roddan stated that total costs to develop a regional growth strategy in the regional districts surveyed ranged from $800,000 to $1 million, and projects took anywhere from four to 10 years to develop. Roddan estimated that a regional growth strategy for qRD would require a budget of $100,000 a year for four years, and in addition, there would be the need to add a full-time planner and a half-time administrative clerk.

Jason Kouwenhoven, assistant manager of financial services, said funding is eligible under the community works program, so if the regional district approved a regional growth strategy, there would be a source of funding to consider.

Director asks about partnership

Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne asked if qRD could partner with City of Powell River and Tla’amin Nation financially.

Roddan said the growth strategy is initiated by a regional district, and municipalities are consulted, but the regional board makes the decision on whether to proceed, and so the funding comes from the regional district.

Brander said Roddan had mentioned that strategies have taken place in regional districts with rapid growth. He asked if qRD would be considered one of those areas. Roddan said qRD is not considered to be in an area of high growth.

“The motion is self-explanatory and we’re not in the right position to do this,” said Brander. “It would require $100,000 a year for four years and a lot of staff time.”

Gisborne said there has been concern from residents in his electoral area about continuing development pressures. He said the community is in transition with the mill closing and with changing demographics.

“People are wondering: what is the long-term vision of our community beyond our official community plans,” added Gisborne.

He said he was going to recommend voting against the motion, and that the committee recommend the board refer consideration of developing a regional growth strategy to the next community-to-community-to-community (C3) meeting between the regional district, the city and Tla’amin.

“I believe if all three of our governments work together, we can present a strong case for provincial funding to help address the growing local challenges,” said Gisborne.

Electoral Area A director and board chair Patrick Brabazon said it had been heard clearly that the regional district is not an area of rapid growth. He said directors had also been presented with costs and staff time required, and that it was up to the regional district alone to coordinate and develop the strategy.

“Frankly, I think this motion is a valid one,” said Brabazon.

The committee voted in favour of the motion to not proceed with a regional growth strategy, with Gisborne opposed.