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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Charlie Lake Community Club (CLCC) hopes their current land expropriation circumstances bring public awareness to the swift dealings of the Peace River Regional District.
The CLCC held a meeting on Monday to inform residents about a land expropriation issued by the PRRD. Located between Charlie Lake School and Charlie Lake General Store, the land being expropriated is currently home to the community’s sewage pump. The PRRD have indicated they have plans for maintenance and upgrades on the sewage pump.
On January 13th, six weeks after receiving a land expropriation notice and having their request for inquiry denied, the CLCC received an assessment along with a cheque for $103,000, purchasing the land in question.
According to Mike Tompkins, president of the CLCC, the cheque remains in a safe, uncashed at this time. Based on the PRRD’s assessment, he believes the land is being devalued.
“We’re not sure what it means to cash or basically accept this cheque,” said Tompkins.
“We’re looking at the value they offered us after having the land assessed. We will also be having it assessed because it is our right to do so. We don’t know how this cheque will affect us from a taxation perspective or a funding perspective.”
On Monday night, the CLCC invited Charlie Lake community members to a meeting to “exchange information” about the expropriation process.
Sperling is the former chair of the district and director of Area C, which includes Charlie Lake, was also present at Monday night’s meeting. Currently, Sperling holds no position with the PRRD but is running in next month’s Area C by-election.
According to Tompkins, there was a lack of transparency on Sperling’s part during the meeting.
“I don’t think he was taking ownership of what happened as much as he could’ve,” said Tompkins.
“I think he initiated the expropriation, and he’s not taking as much responsibility for it as he should.”
When asked about Tompkin’s comments, Sperling said land expropriation cannot be initiated by a single director, and in this case, was the decision of the entire board.
Sperling added he had nothing to hide, and wouldn’t have been present at the meeting if he did.
According to Sperling, although CLCC owns the land the sewage pump sits on, the PRRD owns the infrastructure itself and wants to take ownership of the land in order to maintain the pump accordingly. Sperling emphasized the PRRD’s intention to only possess the land pertaining to the pump and its service line.
“It’s a very distasteful thing that’s happening here,” said Sperling.
“I have nothing but total respect for the community club. But we have an obligation to that infrastructure and the people who rely on it. This should have been dealt with 30 years ago.”
In a statement given to Energeticcity.ca, the PRRD confirmed the timeline of beginning lease and sales talks with the CLCC starting in 2008 before ultimately deciding to expropriate the land in 2022.
Leonard Heibert, chair of the PRRD, stated the infrastructure on this land was “a critical piece of sewer infrastructure, and legislatively, legal access must be maintained in order to provide essential services to residents.”
“The role of a regional district is to provide services to electoral area residents; the decision made by the Regional Board, after repeated attempts at alternative solutions, reflects that mandate,” said Heibert.
According to Tompkins, the community of Charlie Lake had future aspirations to use the land for development.
“Since 2018, we’ve been trying not to have further sewer development on that property,” said Tompkins.
“We’d like to see that land developed with a larger community hall, a hockey rink, maybe a senior’s home. There’s quite a bit of really nice property there.”
Tompkins believes the PRRD is “tired” of listening to the voice of Charlie Lake community members.
“They don’t want to talk to us anymore. They basically said ‘here’s your cheque, go away’,” said Tompkins.
“We’re going to keep going. We’re going to write letters, we’re not done yet. We’re going to make a little noise about it.”
Tompkins hopes Monday night’s meeting and the entire process of the land expropriation brings public awareness to the importance of showing up to vote and said it’s “really kind of disturbing how things move.”
“It flabbergasts me that in six weeks we can get an expropriation notice, and six weeks later, here we are expropriated,” said Tompkins.
“I can’t even get my driver’s license replaced in six weeks.”
The Community of Charlie Lake does not want further development of the infrastructure, according to Tompkins, and are unhappy with the general outcome of the way PRRD has handled the land expropriation.
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