Big White residents at 'breaking point' in fight with Kootenay Boundary regional district | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Big White residents at 'breaking point' in fight with Kootenay Boundary regional district

Image Credit: Big White Ski Resort

The $100 million worth of construction at Big White mountain this past year was done with little or no physical building inspections being conducted despite the fact taxpayers there pay the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary for that service.

That’s only one of a long list of frustrations residents and businesses are feeling about their treatment by regional district staff who are all based three to four hours away in Trail.

“We’re being fully taxed and underserved, and it’s kind of come to a breaking point,” Richard Berrie, president of the Big White Mountain Chamber of Commerce, told iNFOnews.ca.

He put out a news release earlier this week expressing the community’s anger with garbage collection services and the potential of it being cut to three days a week in an accommodation-centred community that needs daily pickup.

READ MORE: Rift growing between Big White community and regional district over garbage

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We don’t have a single square foot of district-provided park space for our kids to play in, yet we’re paying for parks and recreation,” Berrie said.

Big White taxes go into the Trails to the Boundary economic development strategy for the regional district. It’s an effort to connect businesses throughout the region but Big White is the only community not included.

“Another good example would be building inspections,” Berrie said. “We were originally told that building inspectors were on the mountain once a week. Through some digging and some pushing we found out that was not the case at all.

“The building department at the regional district was accepting written submissions from builders stating that they built to code but inspections were never done. That is something they’re attempting to address but we’re paying for a building inspection department and their building inspection department told us it’s a four-hour drive to Big White and four-hour drive back.”

After some agitation, some inspections were done and at least two stop work orders have been issued since last summer because the work was not up to code, Berrie said.

This is the culmination of years of frustrations with district staff.

A town hall meeting was held last year but by the time staff returned this January for an open house nothing had changed.

“They come out with new surveys that have exactly the same information in them,” Berrie said. “Part of the frustration, even though there is an engagement process in place, the community really feels like they’re just ticking their boxes and going along their merry way and not actually listening to the people in the community who are paying for these services that they may or may not decide to give us.”

The January meeting was quite contentious.

“The regional district staff who had staffed that open house were taken off guard and were very surprised by some of the reactions of the community because they truly have no idea of what is going on in our community or what we need,” Berrie said.

A follow-up meeting, scheduled for March 6, could be the make-it or break-it point for residents and businesses looking for alternatives.

Berrie is quite aware that the North Westside area of the Central Okanagan regional district is working on shifting to the North Okanagan regional district. Big White residents are thinking seriously of following that example and joining the Central Okanagan regional district.

READ MORE: Why Big White Ski Resort isn't in the Central Okanagan

“Our best-case scenario here is that the regional district provides the services here that we are paying for as Big White residents and Big White businesses, and engages us in a meaningful process to figure out exactly what works on the mountain and what does not work on the mountain,” Berrie said.

“But everything is in play. At the end of the day, we have to look at our options.”


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