RDN & CVRD Directors – Looking Back
The 2018 Civil Elections are over and there will be many new faces in the community. Both RDN Area A Director Alec McPherson and CVRD Area G Director Mel Dorey did not run for re-election after year of serving our communities. Keith Wilson (RDN Area A) and Lynne Smith (CVRD Area G) will be stepping up later in November. Mary Marcotte CVRD Area H Director returns for another term.
We asked our outgoing directors to share with our readers some of the triumphs and challenges during their term in the community.
RDN Area A Director Alec McPherson
On November 5, 2018, I will have my last day in office as the Regional District of Nanaimo’s (RDN) director for EA “A.” On this date, I will have spent 91 months (8.6 years) in an elected office — 19 of those months at the North Cedar Improvement District and the balance at the RDN. Community service has been the norm in all the areas where my family and I have resided. I would encourage all residents to take the time to get involved in their communities. Whether it is as a member of a committee, a commission or in standing for elected office, I am certain that you will find the experience informative and mostly rewarding. Each year local governments advertise for residents to apply to serve on a variety of advisory groups, ranging from sport, recreation, culture to some more technical committees dealing with solid waste, liquid waste and drinking water and watershed protection. One does not need to be an expert in these areas, as technical experts are available to bridge the information gaps for members of the public at large. Check the RDN website (www.rdn.bc.ca) and click on the Get Involved icon.
When I first put my name forward to serve as RDN Director, Marina Sacht, editor of TAKE 5, asked all candidates what the thing they would like most to see happen. My reply centred on a “One Stop Shopping” for residents to determine what level of government they should be approaching to answer their concerns. To this day, it is clear that one of the major frustrations for residents is to phone or e-mail an elected official or staff member in local, provincial or federal governments and be told that the concern expressed is not their responsibility. For the resident encountering such a reply, their first impression is that their concerns are being sloughed off. Fortunately, some are persistent in their efforts and, in most cases, are able to voice their concerns to the appropriate authority. The next question is, “Are you satisfied with the response and the action taken?” Recognizing that all actions of government at all levels do not appear to have a sufficient level of urgency attached, perhaps my greatest frustration over the past seven years has been the obvious lack of response from senior levels of government. This can be highlighted by two more recent examples occurring in the RDN’s EA “A.” One of these is the issuance of a quarrying certificate by the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum authorizing the owner of a residential property to use blasting, jack hammering and related activities to remove rock over a period of five years. Needless to say, other residents affected by the noise and ground-shaking activities are rightly (in my opinion) offended by the overriding of local government zoning that prohibits such activity in a residential zone. I, my fellow directors and staff were stunned by this action.
A second of these is the failure of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MOTI) to remove campers from beneath the Cedar Road Bridge and along Wilkinson Road. Since the land is owned by the Province, local government cannot act to take corrective action. Some three months later, the number of persons “camping” has swelled in numbers. There are reports of sewage being purposely emptied into the river, of nets being strung across the river during the return of salmon runs, and of trees being felled. While it is reported that the Department of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) has removed the nets, it is only days before they are replaced. Meanwhile, the MOTI, apparently, continues to deliberate with their legal counsel on appropriate steps.
Finally, I cannot avoid noting that many residents — particularly those in the Yellow Point area — have been caught off-guard by the lack of regulations affecting harvesting of timber from private lands. I recall the many years ago when the Forest Practices Code Act, RSBC, was introduced with all the attendant heralding of it as offering long overdue protection to fish-bearing streams and all but eliminating the practice of clear-cut logging. Unfortunately, this code only applies to crown lands — something that is almost absent on the east coast of the Island as a result of the E&N Land Grant. Logging on private lands has few provincial restrictions. The RDN has, within the EA “A” OCP provided some conditions with respect to setback from water courses and steep slopes. In my opinion, the Province should be requiring that logging on private lands provide some ecological/habitat protection and to ensure that drinking water is not adversely affected.
What is clear to me is that for government to be effective and responsive to residents, there must be some mechanism for coordinating the activities of all levels of government to the benefit of its citizens. Within the RDN, four of the seven electoral areas have populations exceeding 7,000 residents. All are encountering problems that are typically seen in urbanized areas; however, the Province has not downloaded the authority to deal with these issues. With the prospects of cannabis retail stores and the application of taxes to vacation rental properties, I recently made a motion to request the Province to allow for the regional district to issue business licences, so as to be able to identify those that are in compliance with the rules and regulations. The motion allowed for an electoral area to opt out of participation in the program if it so desired. Hopefully, the road to getting authorization will not encounter a shopping list of barriers.
Perhaps the most progressive undertaking affecting rural areas was the formation of the Electoral Area Services Committee (EASC), which effectively acts as a rural-centred Board discussing and promoting the business of the rural areas without any interference from the incorporated municipalities. The collegial and productive participation of my fellow directors has been lauded by all including staff who have actively participated in review, simplification and updating of bylaws, regulations and policies affecting the rural lifestyle. In mid-2020, the EA “A” Official Community Plan will be brought forward for updating. The former OCP was adopted on November 22nd 2011 so ten (10) plus years will have elapsed.
In closing, I want to thank residents who have supported and appreciated my efforts over the period. Also, I thank TAKE 5 for providing me an opportunity to express my views over the same period. alecmcpherson [at] shaw [dot] ca
CVRD ARea G Director Mel Dorey
When I was first elected as a director for Area G Saltair and the Islands, I had come from the world of a school teacher and a championship coach. I thought I could make Saltair a championship community.
The first project was saving money for the children’s colourful playground that you see in Centennial Park today and organizing volunteers to do the work. It took 25 volunteers and the CVRD Carpenter Brian Brown over three days to erect the many stations of the apparatus. One of the days, it rained really hard when we were pouring the concrete footings. It saved the community $10,000 in labour by having the volunteers do a lot of the work.
The next challenge I was faced with as a director was the aging concrete asbestos water pipes in our water system. There were a few pipe bursts, which alerted us to the fact that something should be done to prevent flooding. The CVRD held several meetings where residents were convinced that we had to take action. It was decided because the system had different vintages to put $4.5 million towards the upgrades over 15 years to address the most urgent areas as a solution. For public consent, we organized 27 resident canvassers to go door-to-door getting signatures for the project. It took six weeks going door-to-door where each canvasser had a designated area to cover. By doing the petition, it saved us $15,000 instead of doing a referendum. Those dedicated canvassers sometimes had to go back three or four times to a house to get a signature. The canvassers really got to know their community and the wishes of the people. It was a community bonding exercise where all kinds of conversations broke out. Thank you canvassers.
Diana Princess of Wales Park was just being turned over to the CVRD by a Mrs. Doornbosh donation and had to be developed into trails and signage. Stocking Creek Park had also come to the CVRD as part of a tax sale years ago but was raw land. The late Kon Keffer had put a small tractor trail through it with his put-put tractor, so he could visit Ronnie Madden over at Finch Place for coffee. We expanded the trails from there and put in a new bridge over the creek with volunteer labour. Mike Steeves from the Otter Point Pole Mill provided the three perfect under beams and Kevin Godkin with his truck hauled and placed them in position. Then later, we built the stairway down to the foot of Stocking Creek falls and named it, “Len Platt Stairway,” after the former director of Saltair, who wanted the falls accessible to all for enjoyment. Over the years, we added five more properties to the park expanding it. Some of the properties were purchased and others came by way of development amenities. We still have some more negotiating to do to get the whole ravine and lagoon included in the park.
Branding increases the value of most things even communities, like Mercedes does for cars. To publicize the friendly warm climate of Saltair like a “Mediterranean climate,” we planted palm trees throughout different locations like the parks and businesses. I also handed out 120 small palms at public meetings that could be planted in our community. We wanted to have a brand for Saltair that would increase our property values and let the world know who we are. Like, “Come to Sunny Saltair.” We furthered the brand by making and designing the sunny Saltair signs around the community. We created the www.sunnysaltair.ca website to communicate with the public in a partnership with the Saltair and District Ratepayers Association. We built the bulletin board beside the Dayliner Cafe for another method of communication with ratepayers providing the funds. Since then, a Saltair resident started the Facebook page for “All Things Saltair” for a two-way communication and connection, which would strengthen the community.
In 2010, we celebrated the birthday of Saltair 100 years ago. Heritage families did storyboards of their family history in Saltair, and we still have them for further work when we get our Saltair archives going. We had a big birthday cake and we had a replication ceremony at the Southin Road railway crossing where the E&N Railway stopped many years ago. The conductor dropped off a mail bag like they did 100 years ago when Saltair got its name. We were dressed in centennial costumes to receive the mailbag. Saltair was named by Mrs. Southin, who used to visit a community by the sea in England called “Saltaire,” with a different spelling. About 200 old timers came back to Saltair for this event.
To establish Saltair as a safe and usable cycling community, we started the Saltair Cycling Group that would campaign to expand the Trans Canada / Cowichan Valley Trail through Saltair. The group did a survey with clipboards to count the traffic through Saltair on Chemainus Road to prove to the CVRD and Ministry of Highways that a trail was necessary for safety of the cyclists and the pedestrians. The trail is being completed this Fall and Winter. Thank you to all the volunteers that made it possible. This is what can happen when residents get involved.
The final success is the purchase of Mt Brenton School and 5.5 acres of school grounds for $300,000 as a community use space for recreation and an addition to Centennial Park. It was a very bumpy start because some residents were against the purchase and tried every means to block the development of the school as a community centre. It got very heated and the group, we eventually called the “Naysayers” did some very nasty things to disrupt the progress. As a director you have to do things that will not only benefit the residents of today, but the ones in the next 100 years as well. But now we have a very successful Saltair Community Society that operates the building at an operating profit that accommodates a daycare of 60 children, an arts group of 60 and a quilting group of 30. There is also a photography rental and a massage therapist room. And the gym will provide a venue for many happy times in the years ahead. The CVRD provided money for an upgrade to the furnaces, roof and a gym reno that is almost completed. All this for a taxation rate of $7.65/ $100,000 of property valuation. So for a home worth $500,000 it will cost the homeowner $38.25/year. This taxation rate is set for the next five years. The society uses some of their money that they get from leasing spaces for improvements and the daycare does this as well. The arts group bought all their own chairs and tables, cleaned and painted their room and elsewhere around the centre. There was also donation of 50 chairs for the gym by a Saltair family. Volunteers helping themselves and the community.
Taxes are always an issue, so I have always voiced my opinion at the board table about burdening the taxpayer with more taxes. That is why Saltair probably has the lowest tax rate on Vancouver Island and maybe even B.C. North Oyster also does a very good job at keeping taxes down. As Area G director, you only have power over Area G functions as far as taxation goes. Sometimes for regional functions, you are only one voice out of 15 at the board table when it comes to taxes.
I have really enjoyed serving the community during my 13 years, and I want to thank the people that helped me. I have got along well with CVRD staff and the Saltair Ratepayers Association, who we have collaborated with me on several projects. Thank you, Saltair.