A group of determined individuals expressed their anger at the denial of a Blind Bay development by protesting in front of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District office Monday morning.
About 41 people, some carrying placards, were upset at the defeat of a proposal by Dan Baskill to develop Blind Bay Resort and asked directors to hold an extraordinary meeting to reconsider the vote.
But that request poses a problem for the regional district, one that requires the consultation of lawyers.
Baskill’s proposal was defeated by a three-three tie vote at the Jan. 16 board meeting.
CSRD Chair David Raven was unable to break the tie because he is a municipal director and not entitled to a vote in the matter of development in electoral areas.
“We are outraged, quietly, more or less,” said George Landry Monday as the group gathered in the parking lot across from CSRD offices. “Democracy is good, but it works better when people are informed.”
Monday’s protesters shared the same concerns as a small group of Baskill supporters who expressed their outrage following the vote at the board meeting.
They object to the ability of directors who live far away from a development to defeat a project that has been strongly supported by the area director and some local residents.
They also complained that directors were misinformed and the defeat will prove costly to the South Shuswap economy.
Directors opposed to giving the proposal third reading were Area E Rural Sicamous Rhona Martin, Area B Rural Revelstoke Loni Parker and Area D Falkland/Silver Creek René Talbot.
Their concerns centred primarily around the dock proposal, which would see the number of boat slips increase to 70 from the current 55, the possibility of Baskill or a future owner adding a fuelling station and the likelihood of attracting houseboats.
Several protesters said Monday that houseboats are not permitted to enter the bay.
While Baskill maintains he has always been opposed to the notion of adding fuel sales, it is not written into the bylaw directors were being asked to approve. And while some directors asked if a covenant could be set up to cover the matter, it would require amending the bylaw.
But amendment of bylaws is not permitted at third reading because they come before the board for consideration after the public hearing has taken place and no further information is permitted.
Invited into the warmth of the CSRD board room on Monday, Baskill supporters made impassioned pleas for reconsideration of the vote.
Karen Brown, general manager of the newly resurrected South Shuswap Chamber of Commerce, expressed grave concern for the economic future of the area.
“It’s a hard go out there; it’s scary to have your future in the hands of people so far away,” she said, picking up on a comment about South Shuswap having the highest population of any of CSRD’s electoral areas yet allowed only one vote at the board table. “It’s a wrong that needs to be righted. For our tax dollars, we don’t think our voices are being heard.”
Brown says two large companies that contemplated setting up in the South Shuswap had been waiting for the board decision.
“When they heard the decision last Thursday, they decided to set their roots in the South Okanagan which is more friendly to business,” she said.
CSRD chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton assured protesters their voices were being heard, but explained the ramifications of reconsidering the vote are complicated and require prudence and legal advice.
“The most troublesome issue is the information that has been circulating over the weekend,” he said Tuesday, referring to the flurry of emails and letters circulated by a number of protesters. “Does it jeopardize the public hearing, which is premised on the rules of natural justice?”
Hamilton said part of the equation will be a legal determination of whether some of the information contained in the emails and letters is new or a rehash of what was included at the public hearing in early December.
The possibility of another public hearing and who would assume the costs for such an event are also part of the consideration.
As to a request for an extraordinary meeting to be held prior to the Feb. 20 regular board meeting, Hamilton said that would be up to the board chair.
The situation will remain unresolved until Hamilton has gathered all the information, legal and otherwise, to present to the chair for consideration.