Implications of City of Castlegar wrong-doing refuted
Implications that the City of Castlegar failed to exercise due diligence in its bid to expand its boundaries have proven to be unfounded.
The contention first arose when the city announced its intent to expand its boundaries to include Ootischenia gravel pit lands, which are currently owned by the Ministry of Transportation (MoT) and fall within the jurisdiction of Area J of the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK). The public notice also indicated that MoT had given the City of Castlegar first right of refusal on purchase of the property in question, if and when said property were to become available (it has not yet been determined if the property even can be sold, as environmental assessments are still pending).
A press release issued Jan. 22 announcing a public meeting regarding disposition of the land in question read, “Most residents would rightfully assume that all is well with this intention; that elected officials and the people most affected have been consulted. The residents of Ootischenia have not been consulted. The Regional District of Central Kootenay directors responsible to their constituents have not been consulted.”
In a subsequent telephone interview, the spokesperson listed on the press release, Ootischenia resident Michelle Donaldson, indicated that the RDCK had received no formal notification of the first right of refusal or the intended boundary extension.
Staff at the RDCK itself refuted this claim.
“We were notified of that a couple of years ago,” said Sangita Sudan, general manager of development services for the RDCK. “(Area J) Director (Gordon) Zaitsoff was notified as well.”
Further, minutes of the RDCK board meeting on July 19, 2012 showed the issue had been brought before regional district directors at that meeting. Then, on Sept. 6, 2012, Castlegar director of development services Phil Markin and city planning technician Shannon Marshall met with RDCK senior staff to discuss disposition of the pit lands, a fact documented in the minutes of the RDCK board of directors meeting on Sept. 20 (these minutes are available electronically on the RDCK website at www.rdck.bc.ca) .
Nor was the City of Castlegar the only governance organization to notify the RDCK – MoT district operations manager Darrell Gunn said his ministry notified the RDCK as well.
“Yes, we notified the regional district that the ministry was writing a first right of refusal for the City of Castlegar for surplus Ootischenia pit lands, if they ever did go up for sale,” he said. “There was no indication that they (the RDCK) were interested in purchasing the land.
“We’re still doing preliminary investigations regarding the pit land to see if it can be sold,” he added.
Messages left by The Source at Director Zaitsoff’s home and home office on Jan. 22 were not returned as of this posting on Jan. 24.
Castlegar city councilor Deb McIntosh said that, as far as she is concerned, the whole thing is a non-issue.
“There’s been no wrong doing here,” she said. “This is business as usual, we’re going about the process in a legal fashion. When and if it becomes time for a public consultation, we will notify stakeholders as directed by provincial legislation.”
In the interest of clarity, the current issue at hand is not the purchase of the pit land, but rather the city’s proposed boundary extension, for which they have applied through the province’s Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. This will not mean the city owns the property, but rather that the land in question (still owned by the MoT) will then fall under city jurisdiction as opposed to RDCK’s (ie: property taxes would be collected by the city, not the regional district). This would pave the way for a possible potential sale of the land, but is in no way a guarantee of same.
Furthermore, to sell the land, the MoT has to go through a number of processes including a road closure process, as the subject pit lands are part of the Highway 3 right of way.
As far as development of the land in question is concerned, should the city eventually annex and purchase it, the city would still be bound by provincial legislation dictating consultation processes required in such a circumstance.
A public meeting for Ootischenia residents and promising attendance by Zaitsoff has been slated for Monday at 7 p.m. at the Ootischenia Hall.