RDCK board, November 19: Watson re-elected to head board for 2021

·6 min read

Chair and vice re-elected

Area D Director Aimee Watson will lead the Regional District of Central Kootenay board for another year. In a vote held at the start of the November 19 board meeting, directors acclaimed Watson as the board chair for 2020-21, her third year holding the gavel. Area H Director Walter Popoff was also given unanimous endorsement to keep his position as vice-chair for a second year. The board selects its chair and vice-chair for the year each November.

Zoning for Area D?

Area D Director Aimee Watson reported to the board that zoning may be coming to some communities in her area.

“In the last few years, several communities have had a variety of developments occur that have raised questions and requests for local land use regulations,” she wrote.

While many parts of Area D would not benefit from zoning due to their density, Watson said other areas would. So she’s asked the RDCK to conduct an engagement process with Area D residents in 2021.

“This process will begin with community discussions on ‘Zoning 101’: what is it? How does it work? What does it do and not do?,” she says. “Within these discussions, I hope to be able to identify which communities are interested in moving forward to develop zoning and those that are not. Only those communities who show a strong interest will continue in the discussions.”

Kootenay Lake brochure

RDCK staff reviewing how development takes place along the foreshore of Kootenay Lake will be borrowing an educational brochure from a similar group in the Okanagan. The brochure will be adapted for Kootenay Lake, thanks to $3,500 approved by the board to hire a Qualified Environmental Professional and the same graphic designer who created the Okanagan brochure. “The cost savings that could be realized by utilizing the Okanagan resource as a template provide a significant opportunity to create a high-quality education document at a fraction of what it would normally cost,” staff said.

COVID help

Like other local governments, the RDCK will be getting help from the federal and provincial governments to weather the financial storm created by the pandemic. The RDCK will get $760,000 under the COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments.

Caribou coalition

The board received notes from a November 2 meeting held to investigate the formation of a ‘local government resource coalition’ in the Kootenay-Columbia-Shuswap. The purpose of the coalition would be to better deal with senior governments on caribou management and other resource issues. One of the organizers, Milt Hamilton, said there has been interest and steps to build a caribou coalition in Kootenays since 2018. Hamilton suggested that in the short-term, a coalition would deal with Herd Plans and issues such as: What is a viable population? How much habitat should be protected for what population and habitat targets? What are the socio-economic impacts and impacts on tourism and back country access?

The meeting was attended by RDCK Directors Paul Peterson, Walter Popoff and Nakusp Mayor Tom Zeleznik. Chair Aimee Watson said the RDCK should wait for a formal request to join the coalition before diving in further.

Ambassadors praised

Two programs to promote safety and outdoor recreation, born out of necessity by the COVID-19 pandemic, will likely be back next year. Parks Ambassadors and Water Safety Ambassadors will be considered in the 2021 budget.

FireSmart application

The board endorsed applying for more than $700,000 from the 2021 UBCM Community Resiliency Investment Program to hire six FireSmart ‘mitigation specialists’ for seasonal outreach and education; protect critical local infrastructure like RDCK firehalls and community halls; work closer with Indigenous communities; and offer a rebate for homeowners to complete FireSmart work on their properties.

Anti-racism policy

The RDCK board has adopted an anti-racism policy for the organization. The policy applies to all employees, elected officials, contractors, volunteers, and students working or volunteering for the RDCK or providing professional services to it. While citizens aren’t covered by the policy, “the public is expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the values and principles outlined in this policy when accessing RDCK services or facilities.”

In-house construction crew

Critical work on failing water pipes in RDCK-owned water systems will soon be the job of an in-house construction crew. The board approved the hiring of a three-person crew, as well as the purchase of excavators, service trucks, safety equipment and other smaller items that will allow the crew to do their work. The RDCK will borrow $355,100 to purchase the equipment.

A full-time supervisor will be hired in February at a total salary and benefit cost of $89,117. Two seasonal crew members will be hired from March to November for the next three years at a total salary and benefit cost of $46,612 each per year. The three positions will be paid through project-specific budgets – so if the crew is replacing a water main in a community, the whole project, including the staff time, will be paid for by the project budget.

“The establishment of the work crew is anticipated to reduce cost for linear infrastructure replacement projects significantly,” says a staff report. “With the infrastructure deficits our water systems are facing, along with the limited funds, this is an attempt to find alternatives that allow us to close the gap between infrastructure needs and the difficult financial situation of many of our water systems.”

The first water system on the list for attention from the new crew is Fauquier’s, to be addressed in 2021.

Rural directors decline to bury soil bylaw

After months of wrangling with a bylaw to govern the removal of topsoil from a property, directors on the RDCK’s Rural Affairs Committee arrived at a dead end, voting to do nothing to change the current bylaw.

This has been a recurring subject for directors all year, since Area H Director Walter Popoff asked that his region (Slocan Valley) be added to the bylaw, which now only applies to Areas I and J (Castlegar area).

Instead, staff had recommended repealing the bylaw altogether, calling it ‘ineffective’ in dealing with complaints the RDCK receives about rock quarries and soil removal from properties. They said they could deal with such complaints through other existing regulations, like Temporary Use Permits, health and safety regulations, water drainage rules, and other administrative tools.

After first suggesting earlier this year that staff review the bylaw and give it sharper teeth, Area I director Andy Davidoff found himself trying to stop the bylaw from being repealed.

“[You’re] repealing the only tool that exists in Area I for us to address people moving massive amounts of soil for purposes that are not in the public’s interest,” he said. “Let’s just leave this bylaw alone, where it sits, and how it applies.”

In the end, the RAC committee decided to take no further action on repealing the bylaw.

Noise bylaw

• The RDCK is reviewing and potentially expanding its noise bylaw to include more areas, but one director wants to make sure it doesn’t cause problems for farmers. Andy Davidoff asked staff to investigate whether or not the Right to Farm Act could be used to protect farmers from unintended consequences of any noise bylaw. Chief Administrative Officer Stuart Horn said staff would certainly go over the Act to look at the possibilities. He told directors additions could be made to the RDCK’s noise bylaw to ensure small farm operations aren’t affected.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice