Resort becomes B.C.'s 161st municipality
- Resort becomes B.C.'s 161st municipality
By CAM FORTEMS
Daily News Staff Reporter
The inaugural meeting of B.C.'s first mountain resort municipality Monday combined a pomp-filled and formal swearing-in ceremony with the mundane money affairs of local government.
Mayor Al Raine and four councillors approved an initial budget as one of their first acts in governing the newly created Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality.
About 125 people attended the event at the Delta Sun Peaks Hotel, including local MLAs, MP Cathy McLeod and Community and Rural Development Minister Ben Stewart.
Raine's wife, Sen. Nancy Greene Raine, did not attend. She was in Ottawa on senatorial business.
Following the official business of approving an annual $5.3-million budget and formal appointing of staff, Raine spoke to the crowd.
Raine, who was a government appointee on the inaugural municipality of Whistler in 1975, said his goal was to create "the best resort municipality in Canada.
"Keep your expectations to a reasonable level," he warned. "We'll move forward pragmatically."
The municipality will take small steps toward independence. It will assume functions of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, including planning and building inspection, at the end of the year. Under an agreement with the province, it won't have to pay for roads for five years.
The new municipality will start with four staff: three firefighters and a finance official. Raine said it has already shortlisted for its first chief administrative officer, who will take over from a contract worker now with the municipality.
"It's exciting but I know how much work is ahead of us."
The municipality must also find office space on the mountain.
Among those in the audience was Kamloops resident Chuck Douglas, who purchased a cabin on the mountain in 1978.
"We went through three bankruptcies and a lot of growing pains. Since 1992 (when Nippon Cable assumed control) we knew something would happen."
Douglas said he supports the new local government, expected to be the only incorporation in B.C. this year and becomes the 161st municipality in the province.
"It gives us local input into how our taxes are spent."
Raine, along with councillors Ines Popig, Michael Forster and Mario Pozza, took a formal oath from Supreme Court Justice Richard Blair. They swore they will declare any financial or other personal interests in matters before them and agreed to opt out of voting if they are in a conflict.
A fourth councillor, Darcy Alexander, is free from some of those constraints and took a different oath. Alexander, the long time general manager of the resort, is a government-appointed councillor who represents the interests of the corporation.
In an interview, Alexander said his principal function is to watch over land-use planning. The corporation has a master agreement with the province that dictates much of the land use on the mountain.
Over time the corporation's influence will wane, as development continues and the municipality matures.
"Services that Sun Peaks Corp. provided in the past 20 years will in the long run be municipal," Alexander said.
Those assets and services include the Valley Trail along with community parks and recreation services.
"We'll always be the single biggest taxpayer and have a big say in planning issues."
Stewart called Monday's ceremony a culmination "of the democratic right to determine their (residents') taxes and the decisions they make.
"They have a suite of tools not available to the improvement district."
With creation of the municipality, the Sun Peaks Improvement District was legally dissolved.
Also notable among the guests were three First Nations leaders. The resort has been dogged by native protests and unresolved claims, particularly from the Neskonlith Indian Band, since then-Tod Mountain was purchased more than 15 years ago by Nippon Cable.
Former Kamloops Indian Band chief Manny Jules, Simpc First Nation Chief Keith Matthew and Little Shuswap Indian Band Chief Felix Arnouse were given special attention and gifts of tobacco by Raine.
The Little Shuswap band has several business agreements with Sun Peaks Corp.
"Development is a big thing for me," said Arnouse, noting his band operates a successful resort of its own.
"I have a lot of support for what's happening at Sun Peaks."
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