City of Fort St. John expresses concerns about Site C to Joint Review Panel

Mayor Lori Ackerman says that it’s imperative that Fort St. John benefits from the Site C project in the long term if it goes ahead. She outlined a number of principles that states how the city must not be negatively impacted by the project.

“The city’s long term plans for the community will be enhanced through Site C; financial impacts on the city associated with the construction or operation of Site C will be borne by B.C. Hydro and the province, not existing or future tax payers of the city. The project must provide benefits to the community consistent with the cities vision for the development of a sustainable community.”

Ackerman states that Hydro does acknowledge there will be negative impacts on Fort St. John, however there will be no according to them there will be no residual or cumulative affects.

“B.C. Hydro recognizes in the EIS there is potential for adverse affects on the city’s services and finances due to the following changes as a result of the project: Population and demand for community infrastructure and services will increase expenditures, expenditures for services demanded by non residents with no corresponding increase in revenue, differences in timing when revenues would begin to be received and when expenditures would need to take place, in place infrastructure and the associated cost that would be created by the project, [and] land use changes that would decrease the property taxes paid to local governments.”

Ackerman wrapped up her point by stating according to B.C. Hydro, “the EIS concludes that no residual affects on local government, revenues are anticipated following mitigation. No cumulative affects are anticipated and no monitoring is required. These are conclusions reached by B.C. Hydro which the City does not concur with.”

Hydro recently purchased 85th Avenue lands that the City had identified as part of a boundary extension. Ackerman states the move by Hydro, which intended to use the land for storing core materials for the dam, is one of the main impacts against Fort St. John as the transaction has taken nearly three million dollars in potential property tax revenue.

“We consider this to be one of the most significant impacts of Site C on the future development of the City, and a transfer of risks and impacts by B.C. Hydro onto the City and the electoral surrounding area,” she explains. “This 237 acre site sits on the immediate south boundary of the city and has been, and is a key industrial land to be incorporated into the city and to be available for impending economic growth. 237 acres of light industrial land has been taken off the land for at least nine years. For the next nine years the unavailability will require the development of other industrial properties to meet short term growth at an additional and increased cost. Over the nine year period the city could lose as much as two point eight million dollars in property tax revenue.

At the present time there does not appear to be a deal close to being achieved between the City and B.C. Hydro for financial compensation on the basis that Hydro disagrees with how the City’s position that impacts on the community are measurable.

“Unfortunately no overall agreement is in sight despite the City completing and filing a financial impact position paper and analysis with B.C. Hydro this last September. The City engaged one of B.C.’s leading urban planning and engineering firms to assist the City in undertaking the research and analysis,” Ackerman explains. “The City contends that the impact of Site C on city services and facilities is in fact measurable and documentable. We have been advised by B.C. Hydro representatives that they do not agree with the methodology used by the city. B.C. Hydro has now tabled what we perceive to be a lump sum final offer to the City with the quantum of the offer being limited by what they describe as a capped mandate.” 

Hydro’s counter offer to the city fell short because in the eyes of the City the method used for calculating the financial impact was done on an arbitrary method.

“B.C. Hydro stated that they are proposing to provide the City with a contribution of a million dollars per year during the project construction with a total estimated value of eight million. They have stated the one million dollars per annum is based on a proxy taxation concept based on taxes that would be payable on the 85th Avenue lands and the North camp. This is an arbitrary method to determine financial impacts and does not address the true impacts on the city. We must admit that the City was taken totally aback by B.C. Hydro’s final offer strategy.”

The hearing process is scheduled to conclude next Thursday.

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