Alberni officials to mull impact of reserve lands policy change

A federal proposal to change additions to reserve lands would impact municipal land taxes, zoning, and planning, Alberni city officials said

Ottawa is proposing to revise its additions-to-reserve policy, which would allow aboriginal groups to buy property in any city then convert it to reserve land.

The change could have far-reaching effects for municipalities like Port Alberni, and that has councillors concerned.

The policy has been on the books since 1972, and was mostly used to accommodate population growth.

The revision is intended to fast track economic development on reserves, a report prepared for the Metro Vancouver board notes.

Under the old policy, land acquired had to be approximately contiguous to existing reserve land. But that requirement is struck from the proposed plan, creating the potential for any band in B.C. to buy distant land for economic development.

The move has concerned Port Alberni city councillors Jack McLeman, who asked staff to investigate the impacts of this federal policy on the city.

“As far as I know the city would lose a piece of land, and it would be exempt from zoning and municipal taxes,” McLeman said. “We need to know how this will impact us, if it does.”

The issue arose after a blanket letter requesting support from a Lower Mainland municipality was included in councillors’ informational correspondence earlier in October.

City council doesn’t have any trepidation over the plan, nor do they wish create an issue where there isn’t one, city manager Ken Watson said. But “the potential loss of autonomy and tax base are concerns.”

The Port Alberni report has not yet been made public.

Issues outlined in the Vancouver report, including inconsistent land-use planning and problems recovering utility and service costs from lands converted to reserves, are consistent with concerns outlined in the Alberni report, Watson said.

The plan makes allowance for a one-time payment to the municipality to offset future tax revenue loss, Watson said. “But it doesn’t recover all the revenues forgone because the property still has to be serviced.”

Uncertainty could be introduced into municipal planning by allowing something to be built that wouldn’t have to conform to zoning requirements because it would be considered federal reserve lands, Watson said.

“Potentially, anything could be built.”

The city has good relations with the Hupacasath and Tseshaht First Nations, which already have reserve land in Port Alberni. “Certainly we would want them to come to the table but that’s not required under the agreement,” he said.

“In general the process could disadvantage municipalities.”

They could refuse utility servicing on a property, Watson said. “But if a property is already developed then it’s hard to turn it off.”

The Vancouver report notes that the new plan renders local governments adjunct, and future involvement would be relegated to reviews and assessments instead of consultation.

But consultation with the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District is a must, chief administrative officer Russell Dyson said.

The ARCD reviewed the plan and made recommendations to the board. “Local governments should be included as a referral,” Dyson said. “And that service agreements be required in order to provide service to any addition.”

The Hupacasath First Nation already has water, sewer and fire service agreements with the city in addition to quarterly joint-council meetings. “It’s part of a protocol we signed with them. We’d rather be good neighbours than bad,” Chief Coun. Steven Tatoosh said.

The “Indian boogie man” scenarios haven’t reared their heads so far in the tribe’s business dealings with the city, he said. Councils from the Hupacasath and city are slated to meet next week and the issue of satellite reserves is on the agenda, Tatoosh added.

Calls to Tseshaht Chief Councillor Hugh Braker weren’t returned before deadline.

A healthy dose of problem solving and not strife is in order, said former Hupacasath chief councillor Judith Sayers, now a law professor at the University of Victoria (UVic).

“It’s easier to work together than to be at each others’ necks,” she said.“First Nations aren’t going anywhere and the future is where the city is,” she said.

Any land considered would have to meet the criterion of a strong business case. “It would have to be a nice size property, but it would have to have vision and a reasonable plan with feasible economic development,” Sayers said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Twitter.com/AlberniNews

 

 

 

Just Posted

Former teacher returns to Port Alberni to lead Alzheimer’s Walk

Jory Mitchell celebrates his journey with late wife and her Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve issues cougar warning at Kennedy Lake

Cougar encounter reported between Tofino and Ucluelet.

Deadline looming for North Island College scholarship applications

Students have until April 24 to apply for a record number of… Continue reading

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Hupacasath First Nation re-elects entire council for new term

Steven Tatoosh takes helm for fifth term as chief, talks economic prosperity for future

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

B.C. senior sentenced for sexually abusing special-needs granddaughter

73-year-old Cortes Island man will go to jail for three years

Howe Sound Queen sailing toward retirement

Vessel now up for auction ends regular runs between Crofton and Vesuvius at the beginning of June

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Most Read