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Annexation bid generates council debate

Some property owners could be dragged into Vernon against their wishes.

City council voted 4-2 Monday to support annexation bids for 10 properties at Silver Star and Pleasant Valley roads. Six of the property owners favour joining Vernon while four, including Butcher Boys grocery store, are opposed and want to remain within the BX-Swan Lake electoral area.

“To annex people into the city against their will, I can’t put my hand up in favour for,” said Coun. Bob Spiers, who voted against the motion with Coun. Juliette Cunningham.

“They would be dragged into the annexation regardless,” added Cunningham.

However, the rest of council backed moving ahead with the process for the 18 acres.

“This fits with the regional growth strategy and our own official community plan,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe.

Under provincial regulations, a majority of property owners in a specific area must endorse annexation and, in this case, there is 60 per cent support.

Provincial legislation doesn’t allow isolated properties to be annexed into a municipality and for that to be avoided, all 10 properties are required.

Mayor Rob Sawatzky agrees the four properties opposed may be forced into annexation, but he says the city must follow the process initiated a year ago.

“Under the policies we had at the time, it fit and we started the process. It would be unfair to change things at this stage,” he said.

“If this had come up new now, I’m not sure I’d support this.”

A mixture of residential and commercial uses could eventually occur on the 10 properties.

“Without being in the city, they can’t do anything with their properties. Access to sewer is the primary motivation,” said Bjorn Edblad, a real estate agent for some of the owners.

In terms of some property owners being opposed, Edblad says the country’s democratic system is based on majority rules.

“We are just following the existing rules.”

The city will now ask the provincial government to initiate a 30-day petition to see if Vernon residents oppose these properties joining the city. But government approval for a petition could take a year to occur.

“Annexations typically take one to four or five years to complete,” said Dale Rintoul, planner.

Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director, is frustrated with Vernon’s actions.

“The city has no need for development in that area. They already have 50 years of approved zoned property for development,” he said, adding that a number of properties considered isolated have been annexed by the city for years.

He says the four properties are opposed to joining the city because development fees and taxes could increase, and that could make future development unlikely.

“It’s poor planning and it eats into the tax base of the electoral area.”

Butcher Boys, alone, accounts for about two per cent of the tax base for the BX-Swan Lake fire hall.

“The rest of the residents will have to pick up the difference (if annexation occurs),” said Fleming.

However, Sawatzky is convinced annexation actually reduces the regional district’s costs.

“They no longer have to provide the service,” he said.

 

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