Director's Corner - Aimee Watson

Spring 2021 Directors Report – Area D

To start, I must apologize for the lapse in reporting out. The workload has increased significantly and reporting often gets left off the list of what gets accomplished. I tracked the beginning of February for hours I spent reading materials and reports, and attending meetings, mostly to ascertain where I can increase efficiencies and how I may be able to keep up.

In the first two weeks of February, I read 3000 pages, over 250 emails, and 40 plus reports on 25 plus topics, and had meetings every day, some all day. My solutions for a more doable workload: engage our MLA and seek support on provincial issues; request that all correspondence, including reports, use fewer words, focus on purpose and reasons why, and appoint an alternate that can take on a some of my files. Welcome Jace!

Here is a report on our work in Area D:

  1. Budget season!

We are nearing the final stages of determining the budget for your services in 2021. Area D has 17 services across the whole area with a further 7 services you may participate in depending on where you live. All budget meetings are public. The final one to hear directly from you is March 8th, online, at 5:00 pm. Join us from your living room! Link:

Below is the draft budget for our shared services. For details on the workplan for each one, please attend our public meeting! If you are unable to, please reach out to me. I’d be happy to provide the details.

While we still have a few meetings to make further adjustments, the draft rate per thousand proposed for Area D is:

2021: 1.58/$1000

2020: 1.55/$1000

These figures do not include defined services such as mosquito, fire, and library. To add those, you would include:

Mosquito Meadow Creek: 1.21/$1000 (2020=1.25/$1000)

Mosquito Pine Ridge: 0.42/$1000 (2020=0.45/$1000)

Fire Service: 0.884/$1000 (2020=0.92/$1000)

Library: 0.19/$1000 (2020=0.18$1000)


2021 Total: 383,535

2020 Total: 373,195

Economic Development:

2021 Total: 20,580.44 (this is leveraging a further $200,000+ in grants, more below)

2020 Total: 21,475.18

Kaslo Search and Rescue:

2021 Total: 24,693

2020 Total: 24,444


2021 Total: 112,260

2020 Total: 104,689

Recreation: (we provide operational funds to 7 halls and 5 parks through this service)

2021 total: 252,256

2020 total: 249,785

  • First Responders Service

Our First Responder (FR) service is funded through the Kaslo and Area D shared fire service, which has a defined geography for response: roughly Fletcher Falls to Cowan Road. However, first responders provide service across all of Area D. The issue is that the areas outside of the fire service area are not currently participating in the cost to the first responder program.

Area D is looking at how to incorporate those who have First Responder service but are not within the Fire Service boundaries to ensure we are compliant, and to enable full deployment of first responders, including the mechanism of funding through taxation for infrastructure/equipment.

I was grateful to be able to fund a first responder truck for the Lardeau Valley through community development grants. As the need increases, we do need a more stable funding stream to ensure that first responders are there with what they need when you need them. More to come.

  • Economic Development

As indicated above, we are committing $20,000 in taxation to economic development projects in 2021. Here is a brief breakdown.

  1. Recovery program funded!

GOOD News!! Our shared economic development service has been successful with obtaining funds for recovery from COVID. This program will support economic recovery in North Kootenay Lake by providing direct support to businesses through strengthening supply chains, incubating agricultural capacity, and adoption of digital marketing and e-commerce. This grant totals $197,413

  • Lardeau Valley Process

With funds and support from the Columbia Basin Trust (CBT), the Lardeau Valley (LV) process has been looking at what opportunities exist to build economic resiliency in the region. The final report recommendations, including community meetings, are set to be implemented in a few weeks. The findings of this report, along with the rural revitalization program, are being reviewed to identify high priority actions for Area D to address soon. Much of what has been raised in this process is either already in motion, has been done and/or presents a new opportunity.

  • Rural revitalization (RR) program approved.

As part of the Economic Development workplan in 2019/2020, we were funded to create an economic development strategy for North Kootenay Lake. The North Kootenay Lake Rural Revitalization Program outlines key strategies to build the region with a sustainable approach in drastically changing times and identified special projects that will guide the focus and a framework for being responsive to the changes, as COVID has shown us, we must be. The special projects areas are:

E-commerce, housing, innovation, agriculture, energy, connectivity, supply chains, ecosystem enhancement, infrastructure. Four of these are already in the cue for action in 2021.

For the full plan, reach out and I will send it to you.

  • Farmer Innovation Program

We had disparity in the consultation process with the farming sector. What the Lardeau Valley Process and the Rural Revitalization program identified as needs did not align with what farmers were telling us through the results of our farmer innovation program review.

Brief background: Area D created a Farmer Innovation program as an outcome to the 2012 North Kootenay Lake Food Shed plan. The program offered two streams of support: labour and infrastructure.

Area D was the primary funder in the first year with the following two years funded by Kaslo, Area D, the province and CBT.

The reporting process for farmers to identify how well it worked and where to go is where we found conflicts between community engagement and what farmers were indicating was needed. Due to this conflict, Area D was able to, with funds from CBT, do a deep dive consultation. Farmers hopefully will not be overwhelmed with our questions as we determine the next phase of this program. Results are expected by March.

  • Lardeau Valley Power Feasibility Study

As we all experience, power stability is an on-going and increasingly important issue due to grid vulnerabilities from rising weather events. Lardeau Valley, with funding from CBT, is currently looking at a feasibility assessment on how to stabilize the grid and ensure regional energy security. With local expertise at the table, and engineers, we hope to see the final report and recommendations within the month.

  • Land Use Planning
    • Community Meetings

As many have noticed, I have received your calls and emails! Area D is growing and developing. While many assume that local government is involved in land use planning, zoning is what creates regulation, and only 1 (Ainsworth) of 24 communities in Area D has zoning. Without it, the RDCK does not have authority to regulate what and how you use your land. (The Building Code applies to all areas).

Most of Area D does have an officially community plan, but this is the foundation that sets the vision and guidance. It does not regulate whether or not a business can be in a residential area, how many cars you can park on private property or where industrial use, can be located.

With the increasing pressures, it is time to ask if zoning is the tool communities would like and, if so, where and what does that look like?

As Area D is the largest land base in the RDCK, with 24 unincorporated communities, I must consult with all communities in Area D to identify those that would like to pursue zoning. Not all communities make sense to zone and there are some, those with development pressures, that should consider it. Which communities will largely depend on community response, and with input thus far received, I can state that the following are top of the list:

Kaslo south corridor, Schroeder Creek, Mirror Lake, Allen Subdivision and Argenta. All of these communities have reached out to request regulatory authority, which does not mean it will be implemented but does mean I will be looking for residents in those areas to be at the discussion table to ensure we are addressing your concerns.

To that end, I and our planning team at the RDCK will be hosting online community meetings on Tuesday evenings starting March 9th. First one is Zoning 101–learn what it is, is not, and whether or not it’s a fit for your community.

  • New APC members

In regards to land use planning, electoral areas have Advisory Planning Commissions (APC) comprised of residents across the area to represent and provide recommendations to the elected official. The Area D APC has not met in a few years, and has been conducting any business, primarily crown land referrals, via email.

To ensure a robust and diverse team, we have five new members: Allan Hobden (Woodbury), Gerry Devine (Schroeder), Rochelle Longval (Mirror Lake), Karen Newmoon (Johnsons Landing) and Ross Lake (Murphy Creek/Birchdale). Current members are Terry Halleran (Meadow Creek) and Ken Hart (Shutty Bench).

I would appreciate representation from Ainsworth, Fletcher Falls, Allen Subdivision, Argenta and Howser. If you live in one of those communities and would be interested, do reach out. I directly solicited close to 100 people, and am grateful to those who responded and, further, have offered their time and energy.

  • Provincial issues:

Before diving into the various provincial issues that have come my way, I want to start by encouraging you all to engage our new MLA, Brittny Anderson. MLA Anderson and I have met several times regarding these issues and she very much wants to hear from you directly. As local government does not have jurisdiction on these topics, but tends to be who residents reach out to, I am encouraging all, who have an interest to engage Brittny. When advocacy is needed, I am still there for you, and with our MLA, actions for change can be more fruitful.

  1. Roads

I’ve received many calls and emails about the state of our roads–not so much the daily maintenance due to weather but more so reports of a steady decline in quality of and safety of service. These emails have come from all around Area D. I have raised this with the MLA and contacts at the Ministry of Transportation. MLA Anderson would be the lead and I will stay in the loop.

I do hear a consistent concern that the state of our roads has shifted with less than what was accomplished in the past. One action our emergency services is directly looking into is the change to maintenance on the Johnsons Landing Road south of the slide area. We were not informed of these changes and are working to determine why, how, and what that means for residents on the south side.

  • Forestry

From the woodlot harvesting in Howser waking residents at 3:00 am, and destruction of water systems, to piled up vehicles in Argenta on the entrance to Earl Grey, issues in forestry are a weekly concern. Again, MLA Anderson has been brought into the loop on these and would like to be your first point of contact.

At the RDCK board, we are working on watershed governance with a keen eye to see a more comprehensive, fulsome consideration of values within our landscapes.

Wildfire Mitigation

With changes to the wildfire mitigation funding, several of Area D’s prescriptions have not moved into implementation. I will continue to work on how to get this critical work started. Wildfire mitigation can very much lead to various benefits, such as reduced risk to communities while building ecosystem resilience in the forest, if done right. Community engagement on all prescriptions clearly articulated the importance of enhancing the ecosystem as opposed to compromising it. These values will be upheld in any implementation.

One prescription that has moved forward is in the community of Woodbury. I have not had near the connection to this work as previous, when it was lead by local government, however I have been adamant that the Community FireSmart Committee for Woodbury be directly involved. I thank all of you who contribute your time and expertise to the work.

  • Gravel pit application

As most residents are aware, there is an active application for a gravel pit just south of Kaslo by Brenton Industries. I do hope most of you were able to make his public meeting to outline the plans and answer questions. Unfortunately, I was in board meetings and unable to attend.

Without zoning in the area, this application does not require, nor allow, local government authority to be involved. I was able to respond to the original application in which I requested that Brenton consult the community and that geotechnical assessments be completed, with any recommendations being implemented or mitigation where risk is identified.

The Ministry of Mines remains the place where input can be submitted. For the presentation and contact details, you can contact Brenton Industries.

One last note: the only action Area D could implement soon in response to this proposed project is noise control. As per the request from community members, I did request a service case review on what that would cost and how it would work. That report will be on our March board agenda and I will be seeking guidance from residents whether or not we pursue adding Area D to the noise bylaw.

  • 2021 Funding Commitments

As a Director with limited funds and increasing need for support across all 24 communities I represent, I plan allocations of grants a year in advance, sometime longer, depending on the project.

I am working on both the Community Development and Community Works commitments throughout February and awaiting results of several reports, noted above, to finalize. I will confirm with all those who have made requests for funds by the end of March. I will note that, due to demand and my intent to ensure that funds can be allocated for maximum benefit, these are not open intake grants.

Final note: thank you for your patience! This is a scratch at the surface of all the work that crosses my desk and if you have sent me an email I have not responded to, please resend! I do my best to respond to all correspondence but will admit that I need a team of at least 2 to 3 people to help address everything, which I do not have. We are all stretched thin, and to think we used to drive to all meetings!

Seeds are starting soon, and I do hope you are well. Looking forward to brighter days while living in one of the best places in the world. Thanks for all you do for each other!

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