Skip to content

Regional district to vote on holding referendum on Sorrento-Blind Bay incorporation

Incorporation advisory committee supports referendum and having voters decide incorporation
The Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Advisory Committee made the decision on March 2 to recommend the Columbia Shuswap Regional District hold a referendum asking the question whether to create a new Sorrento-Blind Bay Municipality within the South Shuswap. (CSRD map)

The question of whether a referendum will be held to ask if Sorrento-Blind Bay should be incorporated into a municipality now lies with the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

On March 2, the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Advisory Committee, which has been gathering information about proposed incorporation for about two years, voted 7-1 to recommend a referendum to the CSRD board.

At its March 17 meeting, the board will vote on whether it will put the wheels in motion for a referendum.

The referendum would ask residents within the proposed Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality – not the whole South Shuswap – if they would be in favour of the two communities becoming a municipality.

Michael Shapcott, executive director of the Sorrento Centre and a member of the incorporation study advisory committee, said if the regional district board voted in favour of a referendum, he surmised the referendum would likely take place at the end of April.

In the event of a ‘no’ vote, the CSRD’s Electoral Area C, South Shuswap, would remain but would have two directors rather than the current one, based on growing population. There are roughly 5,000 people in Sorrento-Blind Bay, he said, about 2,500 the rest of Area C.

If residents voted to support incorporation, the mechanics would have to be put in place for an election to be held, likely in October 2022 when other municipal terms end. The election would include a vote for municipal representatives as well as one CSRD director.

Read more: Sorrento-Blind Bay incorporation process proceeding after COVID-19 slowdown

Read more: Sorrento-Blind Bay incorporation: Decision on possible referendum expected March 2

Shapcott said the committee’s mandate was not to become a lobby group, pro or con incorporation, but to answer whether there should be a referendum. Secondly, he said, the committee, with the help of a consultant, was to prepare information on all sides of the question.

He said a large number of in-person community meetings were planned but, because of public health rules, the committee had to do much of its work online. It also organized a forum about five months ago where the mayors of several communities about the same size as Sorrento-Blind Bay provided the inside story on their local governments, which he said was very useful.

Detailed information was gathered on many topics, and can be found on the CSRD website under the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study.

One example of a topic considered was policing. He said the conversation gets complicated quickly under rules established by the provincial government.

Once incorporated, a municipality with more than 5,000 people has to start paying for its own policing.

Another challenging issue was roads. Currently under the regional district model, roads are maintained to what’s called a ‘rural standard,’ he said, so the thought was that with a municipality residents might want improvements in terms of services such as maintenance and snowplowing.

With the help of the consultant, he said information sheets explored aspects such as potential municipal involvement and the committee’s best attempt at projecting what the operational and financial issues might be in the early years. He said if a municipal government was established it would, of course, make its own decisions and could either raise or lower the assumptions.

“At the end of the day, the committee is not saying that it’s cut and dry, we’re just saying there is a good case to be made for incorporation, there’s also a case to be made for staying as an unincorporated part of the CSRD.”
Like us on Facebook follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
Read more