Vernon looks for help from neighbours in new fight with provincial government | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon looks for help from neighbours in new fight with provincial government

Vernon Councillor Scott Anderson has spearheaded a motion requesting provincial institutions aren't exempt from public consultations.
February 26, 2019 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - Local politicians are calling for support from nearby municipalities to claw back more community control over land use by provincial authorities — specifically safe injection sites and homeless shelters.

Under current provincial legislation, cities and towns are powerless to impose zoning or bylaw restrictions or even enforce public consultation when provincial institutions are being placed in communities. While that hasn’t been an issue for many years, Vernon politicians found they had very little control when controversial projects are contemplated for their municipalities.

They are also powerless to change it unless they can get other B.C. municipalities on side.

They are calling on other southern interior local governments to support them. It will likely be debated and considered by the Southern Interior Local Government Association at its upcoming conference. According to the City of Vernon, Interior Health Authority can set up services such as safe injection sites and homeless shelters anywhere in the city regardless of what the land is zoned for and without public consultation.

Vernon Councillor Scott Anderson put forward the motion and denied it was a way to block controversial projects like safe injection sites coming into the city.

"This is not to say that we want to say no to everything, but we need the provincial government ministries to recognize that the community should be involved in these decisions [and] that city council should be involved,” Anderson said.

The councillor said the issue had nothing to do with whether the services worked or not, but what impact they had on the community.

Coun. Kelly Fehr said he wasn't against the motion but had concerns it took power away from the health officials that were trained and skilled in health-related issues.

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming said he supported the motion and denied it would mean safe injection sites and homeless shelters would be caught up in red tape.

"When major provincial initiatives are planned it's really important there's some open consultation with the local government," Cumming said. "We end up with the issues if there are issues.”

Cumming reiterated it wasn't about saying no to Interior Health's initiatives but it was "critical" projects were addressed openly.

If the motion is passed at the SILGA conference it will then go to through the Union of B.C. Municipalities. If the organization carrying the weight of all cities and towns, it may challenge the provincial government to consider a chance.

Anderson admitted it had a long road ahead but added, "it's a start. If you don't start you're not going to get there."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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