A process has begun for the Coombs-Errington area to move toward becoming its own municipality.
The Regional District of Nanaimo board has endorsed an Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) governance and services study to be conducted, as well as a request to the province to assist with funding and and in developing the terms of reference. The board also directed staff to write a letter of support regarding Area F’s request. It was a motion made by director Leanne Salter.
Area F has attempted to get the incorporation process started in the past. That included a 1995 feasibility study that showed a municipality for the area was feasible. But it was terminated in 2003. In 2011, former director Julian Fell attempted to restart the process but it stalled at the provincial level.
“Area F has a strong sense of community and has long held its own standards of social structure and lifestyle,” said Salter. “Residents are aware of their significant connection to the environment and have a tenacious respect and understanding of the natural resources we depend on for daily support. We are less dependent on government infrastructure and recognize the impact to the resources we depend on when considering development trends in our area. Municipality status would allow our community more autonomy and self-determination with regard to internal matters such as a sustainable lifestyle, environmental considerations and bylaw standards reflective of the local community rather than those of staff resident in Nanaimo.”
To ensure Area F’s plans advance this time, Salter made a motion to the board on Dec. 8 that only one electoral area be allowed to engage in incorporation application at a time, to avoid disrupting the process of the electoral area that is seriously moving towards incorporation.
“In the past, when Area F indicated they wanted to restart the incorporation process, either another director, a provincial budget or zoning issue would arise which would halt Area F moving forward,” said Salter. “The result being that Area F have not been able to complete our incorporation process due to obstruction from outside influences. My motion is to ensure for all electoral areas, that the process is not disrupted by another director once the motion has been supported.”
Salter told the board it takes a lot of staff time and resources to handle multiple applications. She pointed out the province won’t process two applications at the same time.
“There’s no value in doing that,” said Salter. “We seemed to be not catching that in the regional district and this motion simply just catches that and it speaks to the fact that you only can have one at a time from the electoral areas going forward.”
Parksville director Ed Mayne said he did a fair amount of reading on the subject but did not find anything to support Salter’s rationale.
“If somebody is saying that in the province it’s because they don’t want to do the work for it,” Mayne commented. “That may be a different situation and that should be taken up with the particular minister involved at the time. I don’t think any one area should be over another one. If two areas want to be considered, so be it. Let it be. It shouldn’t be one at a time because it could take far too long. It’ll be years before some of these things to get through. So I am not in favour of this at all.”
City of Nanaimo director Ben Geselbracht said board members need more information before they can vote. He made a motion to refer the matter to staff to come up with a report on the process for incorporation and boundary restructuring, as well as any relevant historical information.
“This is a big process that requires the province and the impacted areas [including] the surrounding areas,” Geselbracht said. “Also, all members of the board should have shared base information when making these decisions. I think with full information, it puts us in a better position to support areas going through this process.”
The RDN board endorsed the motion to request a staff report.