City’s annex plan unpopular

The concept of a mass annexation of rural properties into Vernon is getting a rough ride

The concept of a mass annexation of rural properties into Vernon is getting a rough ride.

The City of Vernon is proposing to the Regional District of North Okanagan a block boundary extension of all properties in the two electoral areas directly next to the city’s road and sanitary infrastructure.

“A one-time offer by this council could be changed by future councils,” said Bob Fleming, BX-Swan Lake director, of the possibility of properties continuing to be annexed one at a time.

Fleming and Mike Macnabb, BX-Silver Star director, are concerned that individual annexations undermine their areas’ tax base and sense of community.

Fleming anticipates that situation could escalate with a block boundary extension.

“Instead of five or 10 properties as there has been lately, 77 properties is a lot,” he said.

“We asked if the city has considered financial compensation to the electoral areas for the loss of revenue (from annexing properties), and the answer is no.”

The city defends its proposal for a block boundary extension.

“Increasingly, the City of Vernon is receiving applications for boundary extension from property owners with failing septic systems that are immediately adjacent to the city’s sewer infrastructure,” said Mayor Rob Sawatzky, in a letter.

“The current process to deal with these applications is lengthy, consumes significant staff resources, can be frustrating to the property owners and tends to undermine the relationship between our respective jurisdictions.”

Sawatzky says the city’s plan would provide affected property owners a one-time chance to join the city.

“This would bring one-off boundary applications to an end, be far more efficient for our staff and the ministry to deal with and will stop the current practice which simply continues to be a burden to our normally positive working relationships,” he said.

Fleming says there will be discussions between the regional district and the city about annexations, but he challenges Sawatzky’s suggestion that annexation applications are largely a result of failed septic systems.

“Most of them are development driven,” said Fleming.