York Rural Community steering committee submits final report to province

A final report by the York Rural Community steering committee says merging more than 40 communities into a single rural community is both feasible and desirable.

The committee has submitted its report to Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle, recommending that the province approve the proposed community.

The new rural community would include the local service districts of Bright, Douglas and Keswick Ridge, the community of Lower Queensbury in the Queensbury LSD, and the communities of Island View, Lower Kingsclear, French Village, Oswald Gray Subdivision and a portion of Upper Kingsclear in the Kingsclear LSD.

"The feasibility study results revealed that we have a strong human and financial capacity within our project area," states the report, noting that the area has a population of almost 9,000 people and a property tax base of nearly $660 million.

"We determined that as partnering LSDs and communities we share many values and interests and that we also share a desire to grow our economy, gain control over the development of our communities and make decisions about the delivery of our local services and the spending of our property taxes."

Committee recommends 1.3 cent tax increase

The report recommends the community be called York and that it have seven wards represented by seven councillors and a mayor.

A full-time general manager and a full time clerk/treasurer would also be hired and the community would have an administrative budget of $250,000 in the first year, which would be 2019.

The report also recommends a tax rate increase of 1.3 cents per $100 of assessment to fund the cost of the administration.

It says the proposed community would have access to about $660,000 a year from the Federal Gas Tax Fund between 2019 and 2023, and could also apply for funding under various other programs or from various agencies.

According to the report, the first council would choose the location for the proposed York office.

"Council meetings could be held around the proposed YRC [York Rural Community] in existing halls or recreation centres on a rotating basis until a permanent location could be decided upon by the council," states the report.

Advantages and disadvantages

The report states that although there are many advantages to forming a rural community, there are also some perceived disadvantages.

They include an increase in taxes, concern about restrictions placed on land use and about the holders of power and control, and fear of change.

Other perceived disadvantages, according to the report, include potential competition between communities within the rural community and loss of community identity.

Rousselle must make a decision by next Friday in order to allow for a plebiscite on Oct. 23.

You can view the full report online.