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RDCK roundup: Area D joins Unsightly Premises Bylaw; RDCK to buy Winlaw Hall?

All the news from the Dec. 8 board meeting
The Regional District of Central Kootenay board office in Nelson. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Time may be running out for rural residents with piles of cars and junk in their yards – especially in Areas A and D around Kootenay Lake.

Director Aimee Watson first asked the board at its Dec. 8 meeting to pass a resolution that her area be included in the Unsightly Premises Bylaw, saying she’s been frustrated by the lack of tools the RDCK has to deal with this issue.

“I can’t wait any longer,” said Watson, who says she’s been working for years to develop Official Community Plans in her area as a first step to controlling the problem. However, she said that process will take years to complete.

“So this is the main thing I am doing to show residents I have heard them, I am listening. And I understand the capacity will be refined. We have it in our plans to improve the capacity of the bylaw.”

The Unsightly Premises bylaw already applies to more than half the RDCK – Areas B, C, F, G, I, J, K, and parts of Area E. But other directors are also starting to talk about being included, as complaints mount and they find they have few or no tools to deal with messy property complaints.

Area A Director Garry Jackman said he was fed up too, and had an amendment made to Watson’s motion to get his area also included in the expansion of the Unsightly Premises Bylaw area.

The changes will come with staffing and legal costs, but that wasn’t addressed during the debate. Staff noted that unsightly premises are often a symptom of larger issues, like problems with mental health.

“Zoning does enable more controls, and we have examples of that we can point to…,” said Sangita Sudan, general manager of Development and Community Sustainability. “But it is in unzoned areas where the unsightly becomes bigger and bigger, because we have no controls.”

The board passed the motion to have staff draw up the changes to the bylaw for consideration in the new year.

The debate also had other frustrated area directors leaning towards beginning the huge task of implementing more laws and regulations for private property across the rest of the RDCK.

“We have spent, over the last 14 years I have been here, a lot of time dealing with unsightly premises, especially in non-zoned areas…,” said Area H Director Walter Popoff. “So I would like to see something happen within the regional district where we get our areas planned and zoned. All areas.”

It’s a daunting process, said Popoff, but if there’s no staff capacity, the regional government could always hire a consultant to develop the plans.

Directors approved adding Areas A and D to the bylaw, while the wider debate over zoning and community plans for all areas was left to another day.

Buying Winlaw Hall?

The RDCK is going to look at the feasibility of buying the Winlaw Community Hall.

The hall is the largest in the Slocan Valley, but the volunteers who run it are out of steam, said Popoff.

“The volunteers are dropping off. They indicated they were contemplating selling the property … but they figured they’d offer it to the regional district first as a community hall to administer,” he said.

So Popoff moved the board spend $10,000 to study the feasibility of taking over the property. He said the facility could be a money maker, with the property having adjacent land that could be used for various functions. He also said the facility is in reasonably good shape, and wouldn’t need major repairs. As well, he said the recreation commission now housed in the Slocan Park Hall could be moved to Winlaw, saving the RDCK rent money.

Other area directors expressed concerns the move would add workload burden on staff, or set a precedent where other struggling community halls might seek a bail-out from the RDCK.

“Do we need a policy on hall acquisition, the way we have one on water system acquisitions?” asked Area I Director Andy Davidoff.

Staff officials also cautioned it wasn’t just the purchase of the property, but the asset management plan, taxation calculations and other due diligence that would also have to be done that would add to staff workloads.

“Yes, it would be on the list, but we could get to it when we get to it,” said Stuart Horn.

Despite the concerns, the motion passed handily, and the work will get underway sometime in the next few months. It doesn’t mean the hall will be bought, but rather the full cost of a takeover will be explored.

Weeding out RDCK property

The regional government is going to launch an initiative to get rid of invasive plants on RDCK property. The board approved a plan to spend a little over $48,000 to have the Central Kootenay Invasive Species Society (CKISS) manage unwanted plant species that can harm the wider ecosystem.

Provincial rules on removing invasive species are driving the initiative, and staff worked with CKISS last year to develop a strategy and implementation scheme. A report said staff were looking forward to the next phase of the project.

“Across RDCK departments, invasive species management is inconsistent year to year,” said a staff report to the board. “Departmental staff have requested clear organizational policy and guidelines that would enable consistent funding and activity.”

The lion’s share of the funding will go to managing invasive species in the regional government’s park system, though other properties – fire halls, recreation sites, etc. – will also see efforts to remove invasive species.

Kaslo inspections

The RDCK will supply fire inspection services to the Village of Kaslo. The board approved entering into a one-year agreement with the Village for providing municipal fire inspections beginning January 2023.

The agreement comes after the Village has fallen behind in its annual business fire safety inspections, which are a provincially mandated service.

“The Village of Kaslo has contracted out this service in the past to a private company. However, these inspections have not occurred since 2020,” says a staff report, noting 80 businesses are awaiting inspection. “Kaslo is seeking assistance to carry out the 2022 inspections, while fully understanding that due to the time requirements, these may not fully occur until sometime in 2023.”

The program is being done on a not-for-profit basis, and the Village will pay the regional government $5,000 for the service. Part of the cost is offset by the Village providing the local fire chief’s services towards the project.