Seymour Arm

I spent a couple of days in Seymour Arm this week including the Seymour Arm Community Association AGM. It’s been a couple of years since I was up there and didn’t have “representing them” on my mind at that time. It was an interesting trip with this new perspective.

The drive up was great, the forest service road was in really good shape and made the trip a breeze. Crossing the narrow bridge into the community I looked out at the river and remarked what a beautiful view, the bedrock, river, sunshine was all very picturesque. Then I hit the roads, and as I bounced into town I figured they could use a little work.

I stopped in at the pub and had a conversation with the owner, Mira, and some tourists. Everybody was enjoying the sunny day and warm weather. I turned the conversation to things that might be needed in Seymour and the first thing that was mentioned was roads. Hmm… no surprise there. Both the state of the roads and the dust were concerns. The other top issue was electrification of the community. In talking to some other locals at the mail boxes and store, the roads situation came up quite consistently as either first  or second on the list and phone/internet service was also an issue. I certainly noticed the phone service being spotty at best, but maybe that’s one of the benefits of being in Seymour Arm.

At the Community Association meeting a number of items of general interest were on the agenda. Upgrading the community wharf is in process with the committee already working with the CSRD regarding engineering options. Their Neighbourhood Emergency Plan seems to have had some great feedback from the CSRD protection services team. There are concerns about the Firetruck insurance and community fire protection. Local parks – Don Fink Community Park needs some work done – this is a CSRD project that’s been waiting a couple of years now, and the Silver Beach Provincial Park has some issues with dying/dead trees creating hazards for campers and beach users. The lack of mosquito control brought out a buzz of conversation and some pointed looks in my direction (why me?) for next year.

In general the big value topics that seem to be driving the majority of the people I came in contact with were: the state of the community road; the status of electrification, and one other concern voiced was the current state of the water system that is nearing the end of it’s expected operating life and needs some plans for rebuilding.

All in all it was a very interesting time and I look forward to going back to discuss some solutions to the problems that were identified.

Incorporation, again

On August 28, Angela Lagore posted a question on her Facebook page (@angelalagore) saying:

Who thinks we should incorporate the NS?

My response:

I’m in favour of incorporation of some or all of the North Shuswap.

Jeff Tarry is right that there is a private study done in 2016 that shows that the main Scotch Creek area is a viable spot for incorporation. There is the right mix of revenue producing properties (mainly waterfront and a few businesses) to expenses which include mainly roads and administration. Many of the services that we currently use such as solid waste transfer can be sub-contracted to the CSRD for now or for the long term. An incorporated Scotch Creek would grow and be prosperous and would bring more needed services to a location in the North Shuswap. The thing that makes Scotch Creek viable, good revenue to relatively small expense (very few roads) may not translate to other areas.

My concern is for the rest of the North Shuswap. Many of the other communities are likely not viable. Take Celista as an example. For revenue there are waterfront properties (relatively high taxation), though not as many as Scotch Creek, a significant number of medium taxation properties, and a good number of agricultural properties, which bring in almost no tax dollars. The type of expenses here are virtually the same, but, the length of the roads vs the revenue opportunities means that if an incorporation study was done on Celista by itself, it would likely come out as not viable. If you looked at Magna Bay, Anglemont etc on the same basis, the prospects are probably marginal.

As a potential representative of the North Shuswap at the CSRD board, I have to weigh the benefits and costs for the whole of the area, Squilax to Seymour. This doesn’t mean that I don’t favour Scotch Creek incorporation, I do, but that only directly helps 700 of our 2500 full time population. There are still 1800 people (and then add the non-residents) that would not have their relationship with the CSRD change one little bit.

So… In conjunction with the move to incorporation there must be a move to have a new type of conversation with the CSRD. We need to re-define our relationship with the powers in Salmon Arm. Al Christopherson is right in that the management of the CSRD is not accountable to our taxpayers. I’m working to find a way to change our role so that we become equal partners instead of powerless, and bring the benefits to the whole of the North Shuswap.

Pipe Dreams

pipe dream: noun  – an idea or plan that is impossible or very unlikely to happen – Cambridge English Dictionary

So this is what I’ve had for, well, a long long time. The pipe dream of getting water and sewer service into Scotch Creek. Between the current Official Community Plan and the rules laid down by Interior Health, development, or even grandpa subdividing his too large lot, has been on hold. The only thing that would begin to open the doors to some progress is a community water system.

Right now, we are as close to making this happen as we have been for the last 20+ years. Countless water studies have been done with none of them getting to the funding stage. We are now at that stage! The CSRD began this process back in January and, with a consultant, have updated the recent plans. There seems to be a concerted effort on their part to get this to a grant application stage by August 29th of this year. If we can get that application in, the CSRD staff feel we have a very good chance of being approved, and getting a grant for up to 73% of the cost. If that is successful, and the community of Scotch Creek agrees to go ahead, we could have water service within 2-3 years. This is excellent news.

The other piece of the pipe is a sewage system. This is necessary infrastructure for progress to happen. The difference between a water system and a sewage system is that the bylaws state the CSRD has to run a water system whereas a private company can run a sewage system. In practice there has to be a minimum number of connections for this to be realistic and economically feasible. It would be great to have these two sets of pipes into the ground at the same time. There are a couple of ways this could be done but no private company is going to start this project without confirmation that community water will happen. Once water is confirmed I believe there are people out there who will step up for this service.

So the goal now it to get the water service in place. The process is to have a public open house (which would have happened on July 26th). Then with a show of community support there, the grant application is sent to the Ministry. We wait a few months and they come back with approval. At that point, firm dollar figures for local households are confirmed and those that are to be serviced by the system, vote either for or against it in a referendum.

If we get shot down along this path this time, it could be many years before the opportunity arises again. As a community we need to talk about what this might mean for us. The community health benefits and lake water benefits of drinking water untainted by septic fields. The potential development that will bring new families to the area, new businesses, a new attitude. Yes, there are some expenses for those connecting, but the benefit to the whole North Shuswap is immeasurable.

I hate to say it because there are a number of hurdles yet to cross, but I’M EXCITED by the prospect! The Cambridge Dictionary doesn’t say Pipe Dreams can’t come true.. and this unlikely one just may!


April 2018 Kicker article

The quest to study the possibility of incorporating some or all of the North Shuswap has hit a snag.

For two years now a group of community supporters has organized, funded, overseen and completed an Incorporation Study suggesting that Scotch Creek is a viable area for incorporation. With that study in hand, and over 300 letters of support from local residents (and seven letters opposed), we asked the CSRD to request a Governance Study grant from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. After initial objections, Director Morgan asked the CSRD board to make the request. In October 2017 a letter  was sent requesting a grant of $40,000 to be matched with $20,000 CSRD funds to study future governance options for the North Shuswap.

The Ministry responded on February 19th, 2018 suggesting that our communities “would not have sufficient numbers of permanent residents nor the diversity in tax base required to be considered for municipal incorporation.”. I guess they didn’t see our study. They also commented that the Official Community Plan (OCP) vision is to “remain a predominantly rural area”. In truth, these two comments are basically true.

Taken as a whole, the North Shuswap is very spread out. Road maintenance is one of the main costs of a municipality, and the kilometers of roads vs. the number of residents in some of our communities means a large expense with a small tax base. Our study shows that a smaller area like Scotch Creek should be viable. And yes, the OCP is currently bound by the vision of 10 years ago. It’s not wrong, but many things change in 10 years. Although we don’t want rampant development, new services in eating, entertainment, sport and healthcare would be welcome.

The Ministry asks that we shift the conversation to “what can be achieved within the existing governance system.”, meaning within the CSRD framework. They are willing to contribute to a community issues assessment if “the CSRD Board and community can accept that this work needs to lead to potential solutions within the existing regional district framework, rather than the establishment of a municipal structure in a portion of or all of Electoral Area F.”

Hmm… Well, what’s so great about incorporation anyway? I see two main benefits. The first is that being incorporated provides much better access to a variety of funds and grants that could contribute to services and amenities. The second is local control of our own destiny. Can we achieve these goals without incorporating? The CSRD seems to be listening, but they are a big organization and have a very large area of responsibility. Can they reduce our frustration?

Currently the CSRD is considering two plans that may alleviate some irritation. A community water study for Scotch Creek, and discussions with the Little Shuswap Indian Band regarding using their waste water treatment facilities for some Scotch Creek effluent. (The timing of these initiatives is interesting, being after the Incorporation Study push, and just before an election…)  If both of these proposals come to pass the door may open for some progress, or, dare I say it, growth.

Cannabis is Coming

Where would you like your friendly neighbourhood cannabis store? The Electoral Area Directors for all CSRD areas (A,B,C,D,E and F) got together on June 7th, and one of the topics was a cannabis policy, regulating areas where retail and production facilities might locate.

Regulating the location of cannabis retail and production facilities is a good thing. There are a number of public comfort issues such as smell and distance from minors that should be seriously considered. The CSRD staff has come up with a draft policy that is mainly borrowed from other jurisdictions, but unfortunately does not work to our benefit.

Retail cannabis sales are required to be in a Commercial zone and no less than 300m from daycares, health centres, libraries, parks & playgrounds. This is a good idea, and in a perfect world would be fine. In reality, in a small community it’s difficult to find a commercial location with all these assets.

Cannabis production is limited to Industrial zoned property, not on ALR land, and with the same distance regulations as retail locations. How many Industrial zoned properties are in the North Shuswap? On the CSRD zoning map I can see three, only one large enough to satisfy the setback requirements, and it already has a thriving business on it. Why is ALR land excluded? At the coast maybe, but there is no good reason for this in the North Shuswap.

So in effect, with this policy, there is nowhere in our area that this new business opportunity can happen. The CSRD staff has barely consulted the public (they requested responses to an ad), nor has our Area Director made any public comments on this policy with it’s lack of understanding of local conditions. And yes, you can go to the board and request a rezoning or relaxing of the rules as long as you have time, energy, money and start out with a ‘really positive attitude’.

Just for the record, I’m not saying that I’m for or against cannabis sales or production in our area, but it will soon be legal and we do need to plan for it. What I’m in favour of are new legal businesses in the North Shuswap. What I’m not in favour of is the CSRD implementing restrictive policies that negatively affect our area. This policy effectively shuts us out of a growing business opportunity.

Update: July 19 – I’ve had some feedback that people are thinking that I’m in favour of Pot dispensaries or growing. That isn’t the case, I really don’t care. It’s like alcohol and should be treated like it. What I’m in favour of is allowing business opportunities for the North Shuswap without rules and regulations getting in the way.