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The incorporation study is being undertaken to understand what a decision by electors in Sorrento and Blind Bay to incorporate a new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality would mean for residents in terms of:
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The question of governance in the Sorrento community has been important to area residents dating back to 1990. Between 1990 and 2004, there was communication between the CSRD and the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development on the topic of an incorporation feasibility study for the Sorrento community. View a chronology of this timeframe (PDF).
At that point, CSRD records indicate that no activity took place on this file from 2004 until 2010. The concept of incorporation was then advanced again in 2010 through the efforts of the Sorrento and Community Association (SACA). They approached the BC Ministry of Sport and Cultural Development with a request for funding to examine the feasibility of incorporation for the community of Sorrento.
Additional background on the efforts involving the potential incorporation of Sorrento between 2010 and 2015 is available through a report from Charles Hamilton, Chief Administrative Officer. View the Chief Administrative Officer's Board Report (PDF).
The decision to do the most recent incorporation study can be traced back to 2015. In that year, the CSRD Board of Directors approached the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to review local governance and service provision in Electoral Area C, the largest (by population) electoral area in the Regional District. The Board sought to understand the views of Area C residents on local service provision and local governance. Were residents happy with the local services provided by the Regional District, as well as with the process for making local decisions? Should changes be considered?
In early 2016, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs provided funding for a South Shuswap Governance Study to explore these questions. A 12-member Area C Governance Committee conducted the year-long study, which included extensive engagement throughout Area C. The Committee concluded that while residents in many parts of Area C — including, for example, in White Lake, Sunnybrae, Notch Hill, Eagle Bay, and Tappen — were content under the current regional district form of local government, there was considerable interest on the part of residents in Sorrento and Blind Bay to learn more about incorporation. The desire for local decisions to be made locally, rather than at the CSRD, was an important factor for these residents.
The Governance Committee recommended to the CSRD Board that a restructure (incorporation) study for Electoral Area C be undertaken and that the study examine two options:
The CSRD Board accepted the Committee's recommendation and requested funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for a restructuring exercise. The Ministry responded by commissioning, first, a boundary analysis to recommend a boundary for a potential new municipality. This analysis was completed in early 2019 with the identification of the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area. In late 2019, the Ministry then provided funding for the incorporation study that is now underway.
The choice of boundaries in any incorporation study is a difficult undertaking that involves the consideration of a number of factors. In the case of Sorrento-Blind Bay, boundaries were developed through a separate boundary analysis exercise commissioned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. The analysis examined four restructure scenarios:
A boundary for each restructure scenario was developed based on a consideration of 10 factors, including:
The factors, taken together, were used to draft potential boundaries. The potential boundaries were then assessed using a range of criteria associated with the different factors. A recommended boundary for each restructure scenario was produced from the assessments. As a final step, the boundary analysis presented a high-level overview of service finance, governance, and property tax implications associated with each recommended boundary.
The results of the boundary analysis were presented to the CSRD Board of Directors for review. Based on this review, the Board recommended the Sorrento-Blind Bay scenario, with its associated boundary, for further study through a Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study. The Board also recommended that, in the event incorporation were not chosen, Electoral Area C be divided into two electoral areas using the boundary recommended for the Two Electoral Areas scenario. The Ministry accepted these recommendations.
The presence of ALR and farm properties was one of the factors considered in the development of the study area boundary. Evaluation criteria attached to the factor called for:
The assessment of the study area boundary in the boundary analysis concluded that the boundary, "partly meets" the ALR and farm criteria. The analysis noted that some agricultural properties have been included, "to avoid creating 'property peninsulas,' to align the recommended boundary with the local service area boundaries, to capture outlying commercial properties, and to accommodate potential future infrastructure."
Exclusion of all ALR and Class 9 properties is not possible.
It is important to emphasize that the choice of the study area boundary took into account a range of factors, not only the presence of ALR and Class 9 farm land. Efforts were made to ensure that the selected boundary at least "partly meets" all of the evaluation criteria associated with the different factors. The boundary does not "fully meet" all criteria.
The analysis is undertaken by the Committee's consultants will determine what a decision to incorporate would mean for ALR and Class 9 farm properties in terms of property taxes and services.
The current Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area boundary was developed as part of the boundary analysis exercise commissioned by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in 2018. Based on the recommendation of the CSRD Board, the boundary was confirmed by the Ministry, then assigned to the Incorporation Study Committee. Any change to the boundary must be agreed to, and ultimately implemented, by the Ministry.
In response to a recommendation by the Committee, the Ministry may be willing to consider a change to the boundary. Any such recommendation, however, should be supported by a strong rationale, should highlight a special circumstance, and should be informed by the results of the service and taxation impact analysis now underway.
Changes to the study area boundary that are made to exclude certain properties will not be considered until the impact analysis has been completed. At that time, property owners may make their views known to the Committee.
The Committee will need to consider all requests carefully in view of the results of the analysis and will need to determine if special circumstances exist. If the Committee supports an opt-out request, the Committee must recommend a boundary change to the Ministry. The Ministry makes all decisions related to boundaries.
The decision to create a new municipality is made by Cabinet on the recommendation of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. Under the terms of British Columbia's Local Government Act, however, the Minister may only recommend the incorporation of a new municipality if eligible voters within the study area vote in favour of incorporation. Voters within the study area, therefore, will determine through referendum if a new municipality should be created.
Only voters within the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Area will participate in any referendum that occurs on incorporation. Electors outside of the study area will not be responsible for the costs or decisions of a new municipality, and therefore will not have a vote. The rules that govern voting are set by the province in the Local Government Act.
Eligible voters include electors who have lived inside the study area for at least 30 days prior to the time of voting, and who have lived in British Columbia for at least six months prior to voting. In the Local Government Act, these voters are referred to as "resident electors."
"Non-resident property electors" are also identified in the Act. These voters are those who meet the BC-residency requirement (six months), and who have owned property within the study area for at least 30 days prior to voting. Only one person qualifies as the non-resident property elector in cases where a property is owned by more than one person.
The Incorporation Study Committee is an objective, fact-finding, and oversight body that is responsible for:
The Committee is comprised of 12 residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay, each of whom was appointed by the CSRD Board of Directors based on an application for membership. John Smith (Blind Bay) was elected by the Committee members to serve as Committee Chair; Patrick Earley (Blind Bay) was elected to serve as Vice-Chair. Electoral Area C Director, Paul Demenok, sits on the Committee in an ex-officio capacity (and, thus, does not have a vote). The consulting team, led by Neilson Strategies Inc., reports to the Committee. CSRD staff, represented by Lynda Shykora (Deputy Manager, Corporate Administration Services) provides support to the Committee.
A key purpose of the incorporation study is to understand and document the expected cost impact on local taxpayers of a decision to create a new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality.
Costs associated with individual services will be determined and publicized over the course of the analysis phase of the study, which will stretch from January to August 2020. The full expected cost impact will be known at the end of the analysis and will be presented to the public during the community engagement phase in the fall of 2020.
A key role of the Incorporation Study Committee is to ensure that the community - residents, community groups, and stakeholders - receives the information and understanding it needs to make an informed decision on incorporation. Opportunities for the community to receive, review and question information include the following:
If local electors within the study area chose to incorporate, residents outside of the new municipality would continue to exist within Electoral Area C of the CSRD. Residents would continue to be represented by the Electoral Area C Director and would continue to look to the CSRD as their local government. Electoral Area C would be smaller than it is today and would have a smaller assessment base (along with lower costs). The full service, governance, financial, and taxation implications for the smaller Electoral Area C, outside of the Study Area, will be determined as part of the Incorporation Study.
The CSRD, similar to every Regional District, is a federation of electoral areas and municipalities. A new Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality would automatically become part of the CSRD federation and would be represented on the CSRD Board of Directors by one Municipal Director who would be appointed by the new Municipal Council. The new municipality would participate in CSRD "mandatory" services (e.g., Administration, Solid Waste Planning) that all member municipalities and electoral areas are required to join. In addition to these mandatory services, the new municipality could choose to participate in sub-regional services that the CSRD currently provides in the South Shuswap (e.g., Emergency Planning). The new municipality would pay towards and help to govern all services in which it chose to participate. The service sheets that are being developed by the Committee's consultants make assumptions with respect to the CSRD services that the new municipality would join. All assumptions will be confirmed or amended by the Committee.
British Columbia's Local Government Act sets out the structure and rules of the regional district and municipal governance. The Act is clear in stating that each electoral area is represented by one, and only one, Electoral Area Director. An electoral area that seeks a greater level of political representation has the option, subject to provincial approval, to pursue local government restructuring through:
On one occasion in the past, the province did appoint three Electoral Area Directors to represent the Okanagan West Electoral Area when it had a population of close to 30,000. This decision was taken, however, as a special transition measure in anticipation of the ultimate incorporation of the City of West Kelowna.
It is assumed that the fire department and many other local services would become services of the new municipality. Assumptions regarding service provision are made in each of the service sheets that will be presented to the Committee. Anticipated service, governance, financial, and tax impacts for each service are also outlined in the individual sheets.
No decision has been made regarding the name of any potential municipality. Any decision on naming would be made following the decision by electors to incorporate and would involve the community.
It is assumed that local services such as fire department, garbage collection, etc. would become services of the new municipality. That said, it would be up to the new municipal council to determine if it will provide a mandatory garbage collection service or not. If they decide to do so, then the rules of the municipality would apply. However, some municipalities do not have a mandatory garbage collection service, rather leaving it to a private contractor to offer a garbage collection service to the municipality’s residents.