November 2020 Newsletter
Updated: Nov 17, 2020
I hope you had a good Halloween and thank you for those of you who made the effort of providing a COVID conscious trick-or-treating experience for our kids, especially those of you in Mossy Rock and co-housing. COVID keeps affecting us and this week we’re heading into pre-budget discussions to see what our immediate future may look like. Here’s a recap of October and what we can look forward to in November.
There is a great report in our Oct 15 ISC report (p. 148) on everything that’s currently going on, and it’s a lot. Church Road Well is going full steam ahead and we should be breaking ground on that soon. We are drilling more test wells to appease my request to turn the Coast into Swiss Cheese before I raise my hand for a $53 million reservoir. Our newly formed WASAC (Water Supply Advisory Committee) is doing a great job, is full of enthusiasm, is asking some great questions and is providing some great feedback.
We got a report about the new green bin program, and so far it’s a success! Over 9.7 tonnes collected in food waste in first week, about ½ of it in Roberts Creek. The SCRD has now launched the SCRD collects app, available at the respective app stores. It is a good way to get a timely reminder when your garbage and food waste is being picked up. I have also put together a blog entry to address some of the concerns about the food waste service.
New communications manager Aidan Buckley
We have hired a new communications manager for the SCRD. I am very excited about this addition, as I hope this will usher in a new area of better transparency, accountability and responsiveness to the public. We have had a very piece-meal and uncoordinated approach getting our message out, and there are some hard pills to swallow coming over the next few years. We need an informed public that can come along for the rough ride we’re embarking on. Rough ride, you say? We need $5 million more just to close our landfill, not to mention find a new option for our garbage. We have hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets in the ground, especially on the water side, and barely any reserves to replace them. We have recreation and transit reeling from COVID. Those are just a few highlights. To support my arguments, I will copy and paste one of Director McMahon’s facebook posts:
1. It is extremely unusual for a local government as large as the SCRD not to have somebody in a senior communications position. Sechelt has one, and they are only about a third the size of the SCRD.
2. Do you remember the big uproar in May when the utility bills came out with big increases and no explanation? Fundamentally that happened because we don't have a senior manager of communications—the directive to prepare informational material fell between chairs amid the disruptions caused by Covid and nobody realized it until the uproar started.
3. Right now the responsibility for public communications is scattered across the organization. We have one part-time person who prepares the newsletter and corporate press releases, but other departments are largely on their own. They make great efforts, but there is no central coordination.
4. Another pressing reason for the position is that you need somebody with the seniority to be completely blunt with the CAO and the board—for instance, to say that a new program or policy is so publicly unpalatable that no amount of lily gilding is going to result in anything other than public outrage, and maybe you ought to rethink it.
5. Finally, I'll say that timely and understandable communication (something the SCRD has a very poor track record with) can save a bunch of money. We apparently had over 800 people phone or email the SCRD about utility rates, asking questions that should have been answered in a flyer. Answering all those inquiries sucked up a lot of time on the part of senior staff and directors. We already have serious capacity issues at the main office since the workload increased significantly from 2009-2019, but the staffing stayed the same.
6. Public expectations around communications and engagement are much higher than they have ever been. We can't do that with staff and directors operating off the sides of their desks.
Business licensing in RD’s
Municipalities have the power to issue business licenses to regulate businesses and to be able to get a picture of what type of businesses and economic activity is actually happening. The rural areas on the Sunshine Coast have a large number of businesses and we have no idea how many there really are, what kind of business they’re involved in, and whether they are doing it in adherence to the laws and bylaws in place.
The board has asked for a report to investigate what a business licensing program would mean for the Sunshine Coast, and we are looking at it as a potential tool in a tool box of policies of regulations to address some of the concerns that have popped up recently with the blossoming e-economy.
One example is Short-Term Rentals. The board has voted to no longer allow STR’s without an on-site operator, but even those with an on-site operator have an unfair advantage over traditional hotels and other accommodation establishments located on commercially zoned properties. Those pay 2.5 times the property tax residential properties do and have fire codes and other regulations to adhere to, increasing their cost of doing business considerably. STR’s are essentially providing the same business without those burdens, while at the same time reducing the number of places available for long-term renters because it’s more lucrative to run an STR than to rent out long-term. Business licensing could help level the playing field by charging for the license, and by making sure that the premises are following bylaws.
Another example is small-scale cannabis production. Currently commercial cannabis cultivation is allowed on parcels larger than 8 hectares on the Coast, but other jurisdictions are looking at micro-cannabis facilities. These would be similar to micro-breweries, with specialty strains and unique features to appease the connoisseur. They could be located on properties as small as 5 acres in purpose-built facilities. Business licensing for them would also ensure adherence to local bylaws and regulations.
Business licensing could also help us collect statistics to make better decisions, especially around economic development, zoning, and bylaw regulations.
On the other hand a business licensing system would need to be resourced in staffing, and the administrative burden would be larger on both sides. We would also need to have other existing businesses get a business license, and it would cost them money (although the fees could vary according to type and scale of business) and time. Currently all we are asking for is a report what it would entail to have business licensing in the rural areas, as that is a tool we may be able to utilize in our very small tool box. Nothing is decided yet.
Rebate for new clothes washer
The SCRD has partnered with BC Hydro's Appliance Rebate program. Rebates on select ENERGY STAR® clothes washers will be available on purchases between October 2 and November 27, 2020.
The SCRD is offering a $50 Clothes Washer Rebate, in addition to the $50 BC Hydro rebate, to residential customers with a SCRD Water Utility Account.
Visit www.bchydro.com/appliances for details and to apply
Our Official Community Plan Committee is holding elections for new members on Tuesday, Nov. 24th, at 7:30pm. The OCPC are the stewards of our Official Community Plan, ensuring it is adhered to, and possibly updated as required (although any updates still need to go through the formal public approval process). Please email the chair Elaine Futterman if you’re interested.
That’s it from me for now. In case you have any questions or concerns, you can always email me.
This newsletter will also be published to my blog at https://andreastize.com