City, rural areas need to work together to effectively plan

By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD

Kamloops needs to up its game when it comes to consultation with stakeholders — especially rural areas — on its official community plan.

At this week’s TNRD board meeting, City planner Jason Locke attended to tell the board about progress on a KamPlan update and explain how it aligns with the TNRD’s Regional Growth Strategy.

In reading over the draft plan, I saw that there was consultation with stakeholders including  Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc. It also includes a statement of commitment to local and regional First Nations communities to collaborate.

(Image: KamPlan 2017)

That’s entirely appropriate but surrounding rural areas were left out of discussions. Even though the new KamPlan is in its final stages, this week was the first time it’s been discussed with the TNRD board.

Locke said on the one hand that the purpose of his presentation was simply to provide the board with information, but at the same time said it was to ask for input.

I pointed out that four TNRD electoral areas, including Area P, are immediately next door to the city and are affected by city planning. I suggested it would have been easy to include these electoral areas directly in earlier discussions.

KamPlan does include a section on alignment with the Regional Growth Strategy and Locke said the city was doing what it was required to do.

“I was thinking not so much about what you are required to do, but about effective consultation,” I said.

Director Ronaye Elliott, whose Area J is also immediately adjacent to the city, agreed that so-called “fringe” areas need to be consulted.

Kamloops director Arjun Singh, who sits on the City’s KamPlan committee, said he’s willing to offer opportunities in future to discuss it with rural representatives.

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Request for variances on medical-marijuana facility turned down

By MEL ROTHENBURGER

A zoning variance that an applicant said would make a large medical-marijuana facility viable was rejected Thursday (Oct. 12, 2017) by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board.

The project would involve construction of a 70,000 sq. ft. ‘barn’ and a 22,400 sq. ft. “headhouse” on a 40-acre property on Chase Falkland Road 10 km. south of Chase.

A staff report explained that such facilities are a permitted use under the Agricultural Forestry (AF-1) zoning for the property if they’re properly licensed and the buildings are set back at least 50 metres from property lines.

Kushty Nutraceuticals asked for reductions in the setbacks in order to develop the site next to Chase Falkland Road rather than elsewhere on the site.

CEO Paul Yeoman wrote that a security fence would surround the property, on-site security staff and cameras would be active 24 hours a day, and strict odor and noise controls would be in place.

But several neighbours of the area submitted letters voicing strong objections to the proposal in connection with such things as possible impact on the creek, odours, and property values.

One resident compared the main building to the size of a Home Depot and said it “is not in keeping with the character of the neighbourhood.”

Staff pointed out most of the objections weren’t directly related to the issue of setbacks, but director Rick Berrigan, the mayor of Chase, opposed the variance, saying “We need to look at what the variance is all about.”

Chair John Ranta said that since public hearings aren’t held for zoning variances, the board could postpone the issue and ask the applicant to appear before the board. A public meeting could also be held to allow residents to have their say.

That was an approach I favoured but it was defeated.

Kamloops director Donovan Cavers supported the variances, saying the project represents “a multi-million-dollar investment.”

However, the board voted almost unanimously to deny the variance request.

The project could still go ahead if Kushty Nutraceuticals puts together a new plan conforming to the setbacks in the zoning bylaw, and obtains the necessary licence from Health Canada.

Development services director Regina Sadilkova noted that while this is the first application for such a facility to come in front of the board, there are “a baker’s dozen” other such projects on the go in the region.

The federal government intends to legalize the use of recreational marijuana next July 1, which is expected to bring even more proposals for marijuana-production facilities.

‘Iconic’ Martin Mars water bomber sparks debate at UBCM

By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD

The famous Martin Mars water bomber won’t be dousing the flames of B.C.’s wildfires any time soon, if civic leaders have anything to say about it.

On the last day of the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual convention in Vancouver on Friday, (Sept. 29, 2017), a late resolution proposed that the provincial government sign a 10-year contract with Coulson Group, the owner of the Martin Mars.

The motion said the Martin Mars bombers, of which there are few left, “are the largest water scoopers in the world with unique and complimentary capabilities to other aircraft and 54 years of service.”

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Civic politicians approve campaign-donation proposal on second try

Delegates voting on resolutions Thursday. (Image: UBCM)

By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD

Union of B.C. Municipalities convention delegates had a change of heart today (Sept. 28, 2017), bringing back a resolution on election-campaign donations and passing an amended version of it.

The original wording of the resolution proposed that any changes to provincial campaign donation rules be extended to civic elections. On Wednesday, after some wrangling, they had referred it to the UBCM executive for further discussion.

Today, however, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps proposed that the resolution be reconsidered, based on the fact that Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson said in a speech after Wednesday’s policy session that the government was “working on” changes to the regulations.

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Veteran broadcaster urges support for local news

Terry Milewski at UBCM. (Image: UBCM)

By MEL ROTHENBURGER

Canadians need to start subscribing to newspapers again, support local news and hug a CBC reporter if they don’t want to see our country slide into the era of fake news, says a veteran broadcast journalist.

Terry Milewski, a long-time radio and television reporer who spent several decades with the CBC, was the keynote speaker at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver today (Sept. 27, 2017).

In a fact-filled, insightful and often humorous speech, Milewksi focused on what he called “decision-based evidence making,” his phrase for fake news.

He sprinkled his address with anecdotes about his experiences interviewing world leaders, observing wryly that “for some reason, democracy is not sweeping the globe.”

On the other hand, he said, “I’m not here to preach that democracy is on its death bed,” but added, “Nationalism is turning out to be what’s normal.”

With President Donald Trump at the helm, the U.S. is retreating from its role as the champion of democracy, Milewski said. A poll in Germany recently showed that 21 per cent didn’t think the U.S. is trustworthy. The same number didn’t think Russia is trustworthy.

Such impressions result from the current “information smog,” the broadcaster said. Even scientific facts like climate change are under attack as politicians like Trump question the validity of efforts to stop it.

“If it turns out that climate change really is a hoax we’ll have built a better world for nothing,” Milewski joked.

Lest we get too comfortable with the notion that Canada is immune, he talked about some of the ultra-rightwing online commentators who spread false information here at home.

The vehicle for all this, he said, is Facebook, which has two billion monthly users and brings in billions of dollars in revenue every year. In his view, Facebook doesn’t do enough to control how people use it.

What can the rest of us do?

“Name and shame the liars, ruthlessly,” he said. Bring lies into the daylight, support honest media so they can hire more fact checkers and share their findings.

Milewski received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

 

UBCM convention passes marijuana resolution, debates campaign donations

Incoming UBCM President Wendy Booth moderates debate on Wednesday. (Image: UBCM)

By MEL ROTHENBURGER

B.C.’s local governments want a piece of the pie when cannabis is legalized, but couldn’t make up their minds today (Sept. 27, 2017) on how to tighten the rules on civic campaign financing.

Resolutions on both those hot-button topics came up as policy sessions opened at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

About 2,000 delegates, including a number from the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, Kamloops and other Interior communities, are at the convention.

While a resolution on cannabis went through after relatively short debate, delegates noodled over the campaign financing issue and then sent it back to the UBCM executive for more study.

The resolution on cannabis asks for “fulsome and meaningful provincial consultation” with local governments, and for “equitable sharing” of tax revenues between all levels of government.

The gist of the resolution received little opposition, but several amendments were attempted and rejected as delegates debated whether it was specific enough or some aspects of it were outside provincial jurisdiction.

The question of whether marijuana is a “gateway” drug seemed as though it might surface, but nobody took the bait.

The resolution also asks for provincial funding for any increase in “administrative burden” to local governments, and respect for local choice, jurisdiction and authority, including but not limited to land use and zoning decisions.

The UBCM executive brought forward the resolution in response to what it called “minimal consultation” with local governments on the development and implementation of a B.C. framework for cannabis.

Last year’s convention approved resolutions asking for local government involvement in establishing the regulatory approach to legalization, as well as sharing of tax revenues.

The election campaign financing resolution, submitted by Oak Bay, called for any new provincial restrictions on campaign donations to be extended to local-government campaigns as well.

That brought objections from several delegates who agreed with the sentiment but felt municipalities and regional districts need their own sets of rules because their campaigns operate differently.

In particular, they didn’t want to see public funding of incumbent civic candidates, so Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps moved an amendment to exclude that possibility.

Despite that, those against a “one size fits all” approach decided to refer the resolution back to the executive.

CONVENTION NOTES: Acting Mayor Arjun Singh of Kamloops was confirmed as the incoming first vice president of UBCM…. Former Kamloops councillor Marg Spina, who resigned earlier this year for health reasons, was honored at a Southern Interior Local Government Association luncheon today, though she was unable to attend…. Green party leader Andrew Weaver addressed the convention, extolling the virtues of B.C., but didn’t touch on the controversy around public funding of political parties for election campaigns…. I attended a breakfast meeting with Kinder Morgan, the opening convention session, the policy session and a cabinet “town hall” on economic development…. Cabinet ministers are getting a positive response from delegates as they meet with individual councils and regional boards, make speeches and take part in workshops….

Regional District to look at its jurisdiction on Ajax proposal

Drawing of proposed tailing pond for Ajax open pit copper mine.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District will investigate its regulatory authority in connection with the proposed Ajax mine project that, if approved, would be built within its borders.

At Thursday’s (Sept. 21, 2017) TNRD board meeting, Kamloops Mayor Arjun Singh made a motion, which I seconded, to review the TNRD’s jurisdiction with respect to the mine.

The motion came as the board discussed a presentation from an Aberdeen Residents Association delegation, which as Area P director I asked the board several weeks ago to invite as a follow-up to a letter of concern from the association.

Randy Sunderman, Helen Newmarch and Gina Morris of the association told the board they’re worried about the potential impact of the open-pit mine, which is proposed by KGHM Ajax just south of Aberdeen in Area J of the TNRD.

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Changes to plastic-bag recycling now in effect in TNRD

New rules on the recycling of plastic bags and plastic wrap went into effect Tuesday (Sept. 5, 2017) in the TNRD.

The bags and wrap must now be recycled separately. The reason? Recycling processing facilities throughout B.C. have changed to meet new provincial standards and will no longer allow plastic bags and plastic wrap to be mixed with other recyclables. This includes “blue bags” commonly used for mixed recycling.

At issue is that automated sorting machines at recycling facilities can’t handle the soft plastics, which get tangled in the machinery and have to be manually removed. That’s a labour cost.

Here’s what TNRD says residents need to know about the changes:

• If your recycling is collected curbside in a cart or bin, do not put plastic bags or wrap in it. Plastic bags and wrap can be recycled separately at a TNRD recycle depot or bottle depot (in most areas).

• If your recycling is collected curbside in a “blue bag,” check with your local municipality or contractor providing the collection so they can clarify whether you can continue to use blue bags or provide an alternative solution. Plastic bags and wrap can be recycled separately at a TNRD recycle depot, or bottle depot (in most areas).

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Are regional districts still relevant?

As Canada continues the celebration of 150 years since its birth, another important anniversary — one with much less profile — is also being marked this year.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District was incorporated 50 years ago. The first official board meeting was held Nov. 24, 1967 in Kamloops City Hall, with lawyer Dave Rogers, an electoral area director, elected as chair.

At that first meeting, according to the minutes, “Rogers suggested that the Directors try to explain the functions of the Regional District to the inhabitants of the areas they represented and suggested that the District should go to some expense to this end.”

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Skeetchestn evacuated, state of emergency extended again

Skeetchestn Indian Band residents were heading for Kamloops today (Aug. 4, 2017) to join other evacuees fleeing wildfires.

Chief Ron Ignace and council signed the evacuation order this afternoon. The reserve had been on the edge of other evacuation zones in the Bonaparte Plateau area.

This morning, several properties on Highway 97 and Jackson Road in TNRD Electoral Area I were ordered evacuated as the Elephant Hill wildfire continues to threaten homes and property.

As well, the Hanceville wildfire is threatening properties in Electoral Area “E” near Empire Valley Road. The TNRD ordered everyone at 7129 and 7140 Empire Valley Rd. to evacuate.

Evacuees were told to proceed to Churn Creek Bridge at Gang Ranch, and follow Dog Creek Road to Williams Lake, then south on Hwy 97 to 100 Mile House. Or as an alternative, travel south on Meadow Lake Rd to Hwy 97, and north to 100 Mile House. It is suggested that evacuees shut off all gas and electrical appliances, other than refrigerators and freezers. If evacuees have large animals/livestock in need of shelter, please contact the TNRD EOC at 1-866-377-7188.

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Fire near Monte Lake ‘no longer posing same threat’

TNRD News release, 6 p.m. Sunday, July 30, 2017:

The Evacuation Orders and Alerts in place for residents near Monte Lake are being updated. The Martin Mountain Fire near Monte Lake that triggered the Orders and Alerts is no longer posing the same threat to nearby residents. Effective 7:00 p.m. today, properties that are currently on Order in the Kristianson Road area will be on Evacuation Alert. A number of properties that had been on Evacuation Alert will be considered all clear.

An updated map is attached showing the area now under Evacuation Alert.

Order given to evacuate Clinton as threat from Elephant Hill fire grows

TNRD press release, 4:50 p.m. today, July 29, 2017:

The Elephant Hill fire has that has been threatening the Village of Clinton and surrounding areas has now resulted in the immediate evacuation of all propertieslocated within the red Evacuation Order area, as shown on the attached maps.  This includes the entire Village of Clinton, with the exception of the Chasm Mill site, as well as some additional properties north-east of Clinton, including:

  • 925, 955, 985 McCall Road
  • 780, 793, 799, 802, 807, 808, 815, 820, 823, 825 Valley Road

Highway 97 has been closed at 70 Mile House and south of Clinton due to the fire.  The highway will remain open southbound at Clinton to support the evacuation of residents to Kamloops.

 

TNRD to require plastic bags be removed from mixed recycling

Plastic bags will no longer be accepted with mixed recycling by the TNRD starting Sept. 5.

Because recycling recover facilities throughout B.C. have changed to meet new standards, they’re no longer able to process plastic bags in mixed recycling loads at current prices. Therefore, the TNRD board has accepted a staff recommendation to remove plastic bags from mixed recycling rather than incur extra costs.

Plastic bags can still be taken to any TNRD eco-depot or transfer station to be recycled separately. Residents should also check to see if their grocery store has a plastic bag “take bag” program, or inquire at their local bottle depot for recycling options.

“There are also many ways to reuse plastic bags, such as garbage bags in vehicles or smaller garbage cans, or as padding in parcels and packages. They are also handy when cleaning up after pets.

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Videos show extent of destruction from wildfire at Loon Lake

A pair of videos released by the Thompson-Nicola Regional District Wednesday (July 26, 2017) show details of the destruction at Loon Lake from the Elephant Hill wildfire.

One video was taken by a drone on Saturday and the second was taken from a vehicle driving along the roadside Monday.

Residents of Loon Lake were given access to the videos before they were released.