The City has been considering the process since 2007, as a way to accommodate the growth of the city, clean up current borders, and more recently, manage the potential impacts of Site C. Some of the lands within this proposed expansion are expected to be developed if the dam is approved, so the City wants to incorporate them beforehand to ensure they are developed to its standards.
Its previous boundary extension proposal had been formally withdrawn more than a year earlier after the City said it needed better clarification on what’s needed for consent of property owners. This time around, the City said it wanted to make sure residents are kept in the loop from the beginning of the process, and are properly consulted. A link was set up on the City’s website for public comments and concerns and informal public meetings were held in June and September, but once again the process has been criticized by affected landowners.
Jared Giesbrecht, whose family owns one of the included properties, claims the City is taking a “passive” approach, and not actively seeking the opinions of the affected property owners. Some landowners wanted Peace River Regional District Area C Director Arthur Hadland to survey those affected, but instead he was authorized to meet with the City of Fort St. John to discuss the issues, and travelled to Victoria with staff for a meeting with the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
An informal survey was sent around, which when added to the City’s own consultation, found the representatives of 121 of the 182 pieces of land are opposed to the proposal, while four are in support and three would support it conditionally. One property with multiple owners was split between conditional support and opposition, and 23 properties did not respond to a survey. The 30 properties owned by B.C. Hydro are considered neutral.
In November, the City established a new boundary extension policy with mitigation measures that include phasing in property taxes over five years, and a reduction in charges at the Rural Water Station and Sewer Transfer Station.
$150,000 is allotted in the proposed 2014 operating budget for boundary extension, which is not just for its current proposed application, but as the City continues to receive applications for inclusion, it could consider others in the near future.