Union Bay residents ask CVRD to review conversion process

Union Bay delegation asked Regional District to review process for converting the improvement district to RD control - Mary Reynolds
Union Bay delegation asked Regional District to review process for converting the improvement district to RD control
— image credit: Mary Reynolds

A group of concerned residents from Union Bay appeared before the regional district's Committee of the Whole last week to request that it conduct a review of the issues that would be involved in converting the improvement district into the larger Comox Valley Regional District.

A letter was submitted to the CVRD asking that it begin the process of conversion. They specifically want an unbiased public report that would clearly indicate the pros and cons of conversion to the residents of Union Bay.

"It's a critical moment, and I am sure you are all very aware of this, for Union Bay," said Alice de Wolff, who spoke for group. "We are immediately concerned Union Bay Improvement District will not meet the Vancouver Island Health Authority's deadline of August 2018 to provide us with a tested and functioning new water treatment facility. There's uncertainty about the safety of our water and it has moved us to come to you. It's an unusual act for us to do this."

De Wolff added they are also worried about other future infrastructure needs and doubts UBID's ability to address them.

"First, we don't think the improvement district has sufficient financial capacity to handle the cost of the infrastructure that we need," said de Wolff. "It doesn't have the ability to apply for grants that are available to the regional district. And the number of property owners is not likely to be able to cover the needed costs."

Union Bay was working with developer Kensington Island Properties in building a water infrastructure. When it signed a Master Development Agreement with the Comox Valley Regional District in 2010, KIP agreed to construct water infrastructure and was given until Dec. 31, 2014 to complete it. But it didn't happen and the agreement has expired.

Union Bay is now currently scrambling to come up with a plan to improve its current water system inorder to meet Island Health's deadline. That will include a proper filtration system, chlorination system and possibly an Ultra-Violet system.

A memorandum of understanding between KIP and Union Bay on a new water agreement was reached last June with the help of a government facilitator. The UBID board at the time signed it but KIP refused to endorse it as it wanted the expired water infrastructure agreement reinstated. UBID lawyers advised the improvement district board it cannot revive the old agreement.

This hot issue continues to be unresolved and has badly fragmented the community.

Wolff said they are frustrated and very concerned.

"We've experienced a series of polarized and often dysfunctional boards and our community's capacity to produce the kinds of volunteers who are able to handle the complexities of the projects that we need has been very damaged," said de Wolff. "We do not feel that it is reasonable to expect that we will be able to find a new, sometime in the future, super board that will actually rise above all these issues and be able to handle all the things that we need."

De Wolff also informed the CVRD about a petition signed by 425 residents calling for UBID's Letters Patent to be transferred to the regional district. This was submitted to the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development.

"We feel strongly that we are not alone in bringing this request to you," said de Wolff, who added they are looking for a way forward.

Courtenay director Erik Eriksson stated that the ministry didn't want to deal with this issue until a new board was established. He asked now that there is a new board, "what is the government saying."

De Wolff said the current board is not considering the conversion request.

"That's my understanding," said De Wolff. "Several trustees tried to get it into the agenda and they're just not considering it. It is my understanding that the ministry had said that it's UBID that has to initiate it but we feel we're in a place that's not likely to happen and feel something needs to happen."

Regional district CAO Debra Oakman explained that the ministry has guidelines and it would require a UBID resolution before a study could be initiated. However, the delegation had asked for assistance and the regional district could consider it if the board directs staff to do so.

CVRD chair Bruce Jolliffe indicated they could get staff to come back with a report on the alternatives and more details to get the board informed on the issues.

De Wolff said there are specifics that they don't know until a review has been conducted.

"It's that process that we would like very much to know whether that could go forward so we can make an informed decision about the direction," said De Wolff.

Courtenay director and mayor Larry Jangula asked if KIP builds the water infrastructure, will it solve Union Bay's problem. De Wolff declined to answer that question.

Meanwhile, the CVRD board has now requested in writing that the developer for Kensington Island Properties advise the Comox Valley Regional District of how it intends to comply with the existing terms of the master development agreement by April 30, 2017.

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