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Annexation of properties on the fringe incites heated debate

North Okanagan politicians debate the annexation of properties into the City of Vernon.
Image Credit: City of Vernon
November 22, 2013 - 3:31 PM

VERNON - There’s concern that communities are shrinking as properties bordering Vernon are annexed into the city.

Some North Okanagan politicians voiced concerns at a Regional District of the North Okanagan meeting Wednesday night as directors eyed a motion on the annexation of 13 properties. It’s up to the City of Vernon to accept or deny annexation requests, but applications come to the regional district board for input before a decision is made.

“Unfortunately, the electoral areas from which the properties are being annexed have no role in the process, other than to comment,” area B director Bob Fleming said, adding the province essentially “rubber stamps” the applications that come in from the city.

“We haven’t seen one rejected yet,” Fleming said.

The motion on the table was for annexation applications to not be supported for the 13 properties, something are C director Mike Macnabb wholly endorsed. He said “fringe-feeders”—developers on the perimeter of the city—seek annexation for the benefit of their own pocket-books. It’s sometimes cheaper to buy property outside city limits, something developers know and do with the intention of annexing the land into the City of Vernon to raise its property value.

“At some point it will no longer be viable to have an electoral area,” Macnabb said, noting taxpayers are lost every time property is annexed into the city.

Other directors were quick to point out that financial gain isn’t the sole motivator for annexation. Director Rob Sawatzky, Vernon mayor, said many properties seek the city’s superior sewage system.

“We really don’t see... how we can refuse these (requests),” Sawatzky said.

Director Mary-Jo O’Keefe, a City of Vernon councillor, agreed it’s hard to deny the applicants what they’re asking for.

“It’s private property and they see it as necessary or they wouldn’t ask,” O’Keefe said.

The motion to not support the annexation passed by a slim margin, but as a symbolic decision only, it won’t bar the properties from joining the City of Vernon.

The discussion came on the heels of a recent review on the pros and cons of annexation, conducted by a third party. The report is phase two of the Electoral Area Annexation Impact Study. It may help guide future discussions on the matter.

“I think it’s going to be a good tool to clear this dialogue,” Fleming said of the study.

To contact the reporter of this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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