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qathet Regional District urges City of Powell River to postpone property annexation

Council receives letter from regarding proposed Nootka Street boundary change
Powell River city hall.

City of Powell River councillors have received a letter from qathet Regional District’s (qRD) board of directors asking for postponement on a proposed boundary change to annex property on Nootka Street.

At the March 15 committee of the whole meeting, councillors reviewed correspondence from qRD board chair Patrick Brabazon, who suggested waiting until after a collaborative regional growth strategy is developed and adopted.

Brabazon stated that qRD received a number of delegations and correspondence from Nootka Street residents, expressing “compelling concerns” for the proposed annexation of property at 7440 Nootka.

City mayor Dave Formosa said the letter was something he expected.

“I didn’t think the regional district would just sit back while one of their citizens was looking to annex a large property out of their area,” said Formosa. “This particular property is congruent and continual to the city. The proponents have spent a considerable amount of money on pre-engineering, on what it would take to connect to the city, which would be hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so.

“It would provide the city with a number of things it has been looking for. One is to increase our tax base.”

Formosa said the annexation is something he supports greatly.

“We’ve encouraged this gentleman to spend all of this money doing his research so he could come to us with a plan to say how he would connect,” said Formosa. “That particular group knew how expensive it would be to come to this point. It would greatly upset me if they [the regional district] want to study this for the next number of years, and that we should stand down.”

Residents are concerned, says city director

Councillor CaroleAnn Leishman, who sits as a city director with the regional district, said the letter is not actually coming from the board, per se. She said the Nootka-area residents who live in that rural area have been getting concerned about expansion of the property to a proposed 240 homes, in what is currently 44 properties, and 22 in a trailer park at the top.

“So it’s a massive expansion of density in what has always been designated in their official community plan as a rural area,” said Leishman. “It’s the residents who are really concerned about this massive increase in population in their area.”

Leishman said there was a delegation to the planning committee in February, and from that, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne, in whose area the Nootka properties are located, made a motion to ask the board to write a letter asking to hold off, because the board has also made a direction to start working on a regional growth strategy, with the city and Tla’amin Nation.

“We’re talking about expanding our municipal boundary into a rural area, which is a big deal,” said Leishman. “I don’t feel good about plowing through in this direction without having the process of a regional growth strategy discussed. If we’re going to be talking about that kind of growth, we should be talking about where the urban containment boundaries are going to be.

“If we’re talking about moving the municipal boundary into a rural area, let’s have a big, broad discussion about that with the community. I don’t want our staff doing all kinds of work and having the residents of upper Nootka lighting their hair on fire, because it’s a massive increase, going from 66 homes to another 240.”

Councillor George Doubt, the other city director on the qRD board, said the regional district planning committee and board had received delegations from people who live in the Nootka Street area who wanted the regional district to be aware of the application coming to the city and want to do something about it.

Doubt said prior to the delegations, a regional director brought forward a motion to work with the city to collaborate on a regional growth strategy. He asked staff if a request had been received from qRD.

Chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said he wasn’t aware of such a request.

“That can sometimes take years to create,” said Doubt. “This is basically a request to delay a city council decision until after that regional growth strategy is created. It’s hard to tell when that might be.

“I’m going to come down in the middle of this. From what I understand, the city is going to receive another report about the Nootka Street application. We could receive this letter, and we can understand the regional district wants to engage in a regional growth strategy and we can talk about how that might affect it. There’s more than just the interest of the city involved. There are residents of Nootka Street who have a stake in it, and the regional district as well.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said the city needs people to invest and not feel like it’s going to take 15 years to get to a conclusion.

“I’m not in favour of indefinite deferral of a decision,” added Elliott.

Councillors see move as stall tactic

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said this project has been on the table for years and it’s not a surprise to the regional district.

“Suddenly, we get a letter requesting a regional growth strategy,” said Hathaway. “I don’t find a lot of sincerity in that. If they truly want a regional growth strategy, and maybe we can sit down and start on that, but I’m sorry, I really think this is a stall tactic as opposed to an actual progressive move.”

Formosa said he understands Nootka residents don’t want to see another 240 homes there but he’s sure city planning staff know what’s reasonable in such a development.

“The amount of assets this community would pick up are great, plus taxpayers to help us pay our bills,” said Formosa.

Councillor and committee of the whole chair Jim Palm said he agreed with Hathaway that it was a stall tactic by the regional district. Palm said he looked forward to seeing a staff report on the proposed annexation.

“This is something that would be a good step forward for the city in terms of economic development,” said Palm.

The committee carried a motion to receive the letter for information.