A two hour open house meeting held by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District was used to quell concerns over the pending purchase of Centennial Field.
The Thursday, Sept. 12, meeting at the Shuswap Lake Estates Centre, provided residents of Electoral Area C an opportunity to ask questions about a number of topics relating to the purchase of the 9.5 acres of land known as Centennial Field.
Questions ranged from the ethics of the alternative approval process (AAP) underway for the borrowing of $1.77 million to purchase the property to the quality of the land itself.
More than a dozen speakers, the majority from Blind Bay, took to the microphone to passionately defend their viewpoints. One such speaker asked why, out of the $1.1 million in the CSRD’s park acquisition fund, only $1 million had been put towards the purchase. This, replied CSRD manager of operations Darcy Mooney, was a decision of the board, which opted to leave $100,000 in the fund for future acquisitions.
Multiple attendees spoke to Centennial Field’s tendency to flood in springtime. From this, questions arose over the need to improve the land through excavation and the costs associated with such improvements.
“We know there is a floodplain down there but many houses are built along the lake as well,” said Ryan Nitchie, team leader for community services and operations management for the CSRD. “We would take every precaution we can within the design to ensure that the rise of the lake is taken into account.”
In a CSRD news release related to the proposed land purchase, it is stated “the maximum amount that may be requisitioned for the service is the amount equivalent to $0.40 for each $1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements within the service area.” According to a CSRD estimate, the average house in area C has an assessed value of $370,138, which would equate to a payment of approximately $48 per year – which is actually closer to $0.13 for each $1,000 of net taxable value of land.
Chris Harris took to the mic and asked, if the amount currently asked for is $0.13, why would she agree to paying a maximum of $0.40?
“We have a considerable amount of vulnerability on that,” said Charles Hamilton, chief administrative officer for the CSRD. “When you put these service establishment bylaws together, coupled with the loan authorization bylaw, you are compelled to put an upper maximum on there. I don’t think we gave enough thought to that and how that would roll out.”
Nearer the end of the evening, speakers representing younger families spoke to the area’s need for a park.
“I think the taxes are cheap, nobody likes them to go up but for me it’s a good cause. I’m not putting money in the CSRD’s pockets – it’s going to a park and something we can all share and come together,” said Mark Corbett said. “There is a problem and it seems like they came up with a solution.”
Karen Brown, executive director for the South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce and director for the Arts Council for the South Shuswap, also spoke.
“We build as a community, we don’t build as Notch Hill versus Sorrento or Sorrento versus Blind Bay or White Lake,” Brown said. “We have almost 50 new kindergarteners in Sorrento elementary alone. We are growing and that new demographic is coming in and we need to look after those families.”
Paul Demenok, director for Electoral Area C, was also at the open house. He told his constituents at the beginning of the evening that he has indicated to the board he will never support another AAP process. This decision he said is due to the backlash that has ensued from each time the process has been used.
“It’s a question of whether we elect to use it again as a board. We elected to use it again because the parks plan came in and it was pretty clear everybody wanted a park in Blind Bay,” Demenok said.
Demenok was also sure to tell the room the purchase has not yet been made. In order to stop the AAP in its tracks, at least 671 valid electors – 10 per cent of the eligible voters of Electoral Area C – must submit forms declaring their opposition. If this number is not met, the CSRD will proceed with implementing the bylaws and borrowing the funds to purchase the property.