Annexation study maps out boundary protocols

Report considers municipal annexation policies and services provided by Regional District of North Okanagan

Improved communication appears to be a major thrust of a report looking into annexation.

A draft annexation impact study for the Electoral Area Advisory Committee states there should possibly be a joint protocol between rural areas and municipalities over how boundary changes are handled.

“It makes sense,” said Rick Fairbairn, EAAC chairperson.

“Rather than leaving it to the Ministry of Community Development to decide for us, we can come up with something we support.”

Electoral area directors have stated that municipalities can apply to the ministry to have outlying properties annexed but they have very little involvement in the process.

The study considers municipal annexation policies, services provided by the Regional District of North Okanagan, services provided by other agencies, property taxes, local political representation and land use planning.

This is the first time that an annexation study from the electoral areas’ perspective has been done in B.C.

“We want this to be an unbiased look at the impact of annexation on surrounding areas,” said Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director.

Among the directors’ concerns is reducing the land and tax base of an electoral area can place significant financial pressure on remaining residents to provide services.

There is also a question of how the annexed land will be developed.

“If the official community plan is saying no sprawl, what is the need of annexing small pieces?” said Macnabb, adding that cities can enter into contracts with electoral areas to provide services like sewer so annexation isn’t necessary to access that utility.

“We don’t need to be poaching from each other.”

Macnabb believes the ministry needs to play a more active role with the issue.

“They are very silent on small annexations over the last few years,” he said.

“Vernon has annexed a large chunk (of land) incrementally through smaller properties.”

EAAC directors will decide in February if there will be a second phase of the study.

“There’s an appetite to proceed,” said Fairbairn of another phase which could review specific cases of annexation such as Okanagan Landing into Vernon in 1993.