SLRD not getting into the subdivision game, yet
Regional districts to gain authority in 1996
While the NDP government has taken the first steps to giving approval authority for rural subdivisions to B.C.’s regional districts, the chair of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District says they are not getting into the subdivision business — yet.
"We would not be anxious to do it right away," says Dan Cumming, SLRD chair. "We are undergoing some restructuring in the district and we haven’t even brought this issue to the board table yet."
Starting in 1996 all of the province’s 29 regional districts will have approval authority to create rural subdivisions. That authority had previously been with the Ministry of Transportation and Highways. The new legislation will allow regional districts to consolidate the rural subdivision approval function with their existing land use authority. While Highways Minister Jackie Pement is lauding the legislation as a major asset to fast growing areas of the province, Cumming says the SLRD just does not have the staff or the budget to start looking after subdivision approvals.
Although the SLRD is one of the fastest growing regional districts in B.C., the proposed legislation will not make any difference here until the regional district can find the cash to make it a reality.
"As much as I would like to think it is a gesture of co-operation I think this could be another step in the downloading process that has been going on over the past number of years," Cumming says. "It’s a good idea, but is it being implemented for the right reasons?"
The Ministry of Transportation and Highways has had final approval on all subdivision applications in regional districts. Cumming says many viable projects were stalled or made very costly as the Highways Ministry tried to get road improvements piggy-backed on subdivision approvals.
"They (the Ministry of Highways) were using their approval stick as just that, a stick to beat highway improvements out of developers that didn’t have the capital to undertake huge highways projects," he says. "Highways would tell a developer that they have initial approval then the ‘Oh, by the ways,’ would come out as they say ‘We want a cloverleaf’ or "We need to expand the highway somewhat.’"
Although the move will give local governments more control, Cumming says it is going to be a while before many of B.C.’s regional districts have the financial ability to take that control. To that end, the transfer of authority is optional, so no regional district has to take on the approval function if they feel they lack the resources or desire to do so.
Cumming says the topic will be brought up at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference next fall and the SLRD will look at forming a policy in the future.
"We don’t have a timeline for this," he says. "It’s a great idea, but it is going to take us some time to make the idea real."