Special Notice - COVID-19
As of June 2020, the pause button is being pushed on the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study process due to restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) will be putting the process on hold at this time, pending changes in the Province's COVID-19 health policy which would allow for a robust and interactive public process on the possibility of incorporation.
No date has been set for the resumption of the process, as this will be dictated by Provincial health policy. Once this happens, the study process will pick up again where it left off and a new timeline will be developed.
From January, 2020, through the end of July, 2020, the Incorporation Study Advisory Committee will be undertaking the analysis required to understand the service, governance, financial, and taxation impacts that would be expected as a result of a decision by local electors to incorporate a Sorrento-Blind Bay municipality.
Over the course of this analysis, the Committee anticipates that residents within and around the study area may have questions on different aspects of the incorporation study, including local services and the study area. All questions posed by residents will be addressed in detail as part of the the Community Engagement phase of the Study, which will occur in the fall of 2020. Wherever possible, however, questions will also be addressed by the Committee in advance of the Engagement phase.
This document — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) — presents and answers the questions that come to the Committee, including questions that are asked by members of the public at Committee meetings, that are raised with Committee members outside of meetings, and that are posed by residents in local media and other public forums. This FAQ is a "living" resource that will be added to regularly as questions arise.
The public should be aware that all meetings of the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Advisory Committee are open to the public, and include an opportunity for attendees to ask questions.
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:
- local service provision (i.e., who would provide services to the community)
- local governance (i.e., who would make decisions for the community)
- local government finances (i.e., how much would services and government cost)
- property taxes (i.e., how would property tax bills change).
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. A chronology of this timeframe is available here.
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 are available through a report from Charles Hamilton, Chief Administrative Officer, which can be viewed here.
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 incorporation of a portion (i.e., Sorrento and/or Blind Bay) of the electoral area
- the division of the current electoral area into two electoral areas.
The CSRD Board accepted the Committee's recommendation and requested funding from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for a restructure 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:
- incorporation of Sorrento as a separate municipality
- incorporation of Blind Bay as a separate municipality
- incorporation of Sorrento and Blind Bay, together, as a single municipality
- division of Electoral Area C into two areas, each with its own Director.
A boundary for each restructure scenario was developed based on an consideration of 10 factors, including:
- future community development plans and land use categories, as outlined in the Electoral Area C Official Community Plan
- existing settlement patterns and land use regulations
- population and population density
- local government services and service area boundaries
- potential future infrastructure developments
- local road networks
- property assessment classes
- property assessment values
- Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and farm property inventories
- community input (from the South Shuswap Governance Study).
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:
- incorporation scenarios to minimize the amount of ALR land included within municipal boundaries
- incorporation to exclude Class 9 farm properties from municipal boundaries
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 being 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:
- overseeing all phases of the Incorporation Study, and all of the work undertaken by the consultants
- providing opportunities for electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay to review, understand, and question the study's findings with respect to the anticipated service, governance, financial, and taxation impacts of incorporation
- considering all input provided by residents over the course of the study
- submitting a final report to the CSRD Board
- making a recommendation to the Board on an incorporation referendum.
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:
- Committee Meetings — Every meeting of the Committee is open to the public and includes, as an agenda item, an opportunity for questions from community members in attendance. Committee meetings are advertised by the CSRD online (csrd.bc.ca), in media, and through social media.
- Website — All background materials, all Committee meeting packages, and all analyses (i.e., service sheets, issue sheets) are posted online at csrd.bc.ca. Questions can be submitted through a website link.
- Hard Copy Materials — A complete hard copy of all materials is available for review at the South Shuswap Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library, the Sorrento Centre office, and the CSRD office in Salmon Arm.
- Community Engagement Process — In the fall of 2020, the Committee will undertake an extensive two-month engagement process that will include open houses, a mail-out, a moderated discussion, and several other components.
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 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:
- the incorporation of all or a portion of the electoral area
- the transfer, through an electoral area boundary change, of a portion of the electoral area to an adjacent existing electoral area
- the division of the electoral area into two separate areas.
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.
No. If the electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay chose for whatever reason to remain unincorporated, Electoral Area C would be split into two separate electoral areas (i.e., Area C1 and Area C2). The default, "Two Electoral Areas" option was identified by the Electoral Area C Governance Committee at the end of the 2017 South Shuswap Governance Study. This 2017 Committee, comprised of 12 residents from communities throughout Electoral Area C, recommended that Area C be divided into two separate areas in the event that incorporation did not proceed. The recommendation was based on the view that the existing Electoral Area C is too large to be served effectively by only one Electoral Area Director. The CSRD Board and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs endorsed the recommendation.
The Service Sheets that are being developed by the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study Committee for the current Incorporation Study identify the service, governance, and tax impacts that would apply to residents in Areas C1 and C2, in the event that incorporation did not proceed.
As its name suggests, the Incorporation Study is focused primarily on the implications of incorporation for the residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay. In all of the Service Sheets being developed for the study, however, the service, governance, and tax impacts associated with the Two Electoral Areas option are also identified.
It is important to remember that the Two Electoral Areas option — that is, the division of Electoral Area C into two Areas C1 and C2 — is the default option that will occur only if the electors of Sorrento and Blind Bay choose to remain unincorporated.
Every parcel of property in British Columbia is placed by BC Assessment into one property tax class. Residential properties are placed into Class 1; business properties are placed into Class 6. All Class 6 business properties, in electoral areas and municipalities, pay the property tax that is assigned to that class.
A key difference between the business property taxes in electoral areas and municipalities, however, concerns the tax rate. In electoral areas, business pay the Class 6 property tax rate that is identified by the regional district. In every regional district, the Class 6 rate must at a ratio of 2.45 to the Class 1 (residential) rate. Each regional district will determine, for each local service, the Class 1 rate to charge. The business rate is then set automatically using a multiplier of 2.45 on the Class 1 rate. This multiplier, along with multipliers for other classes of non-residential property, is mandated by the province under the Regional District Tax Regulation.
Municipalities have the authority to set not only their own Class 1 (residential) rate, but also all other rates for other classes of property, including Class 6 (business).This authority allows municipal councils to use property taxes as policy tools to pursue different goals. Within the CSRD, different municipalities use different Class 6 multipliers. Sicamous, for example, uses a multiplier of 2.15, whereas Salmon Arm uses a multiplier of 2.82. Revelstoke applies a Class 6 multiplier of 4.93, whereas Golden uses 2.16. A new municipal council for Sorrento-Blind Bay would have the authority to set its own Class 6 property tax rate.
In most municipalities, businesses are required to pay a business license fee in addition to their property tax. Fee levels typically vary based on type of business or other factors — a typical fee is around $100 per year. It has been assumed in the Sorrento-Blind Bay Incorporation Study that the new municipality would have a business license function. The CSRD does not have such a service for Electoral Area C.
The Incorporation Study Committee is responsible for:
- overseeing an objective, comprehensive analysis of the service, governance, and tax implications associated with the potential incorporation of Sorrento-Blind Bay,
- ensuring that the residents of Sorrento and Blind Bay understand and have the opportunity to question the results of the analysis — that is, understand what incorporation would mean to them in terms of local services, decision-making, and property taxes.
The Study Committee is very much expected to remain neutral with respect to the governance options. The Committee is not in place to advocate for any particular outcome of the analysis.
The Study Committee does need to make assumptions regarding staffing and other costs that would be incurred to enable a new municipality to provide the same range and level services that are provided to Sorrento and Blind Bay today. In all cases, assumptions are suggested by the Committee's consultants based on practices in place in other municipalities, and research on the specific services in question.
In general, the Committee should not make assumptions related to significant changes in the range or levels of service provided, the establishment of major new services or facilities, the withdrawal of the future municipality from inter-governmental cost-sharing arrangements (in cases where such arrangements would not be automatically be rendered unnecessary by a service of the municipality), or major changes to existing land use patterns and development policies. Decisions in these types of instances would be made by, and should be left to, the new municipal council.
All infrastructure costs will be identified in the individual service sheets where relevant. The sheet on Parks and Recreation, for example, contains information on capital reserves that would be used to help fund improvements (e.g., playgrounds) in parks. Future sheets on local roads will include information on road infrastructure improvements that can be anticipated. A future sheet on administration services will address the question of a municipal hall. Sheets do not generally comment on the potential need or desire for new infrastructure projects that are not planned today, or that would result in significant changes to existing service levels. Decisions on these improvements would be decisions for the new council (see previous question and answer above).
Salary costs for staff who would be involved in the operation of services are included in service costs identified in each of the service sheets. Costs for managers and staff who are needed to administer the municipality (e.g., Chief Administrative Office, Director of Finance, Receptionist) will be addressed in the sheet on administration. A separate sheet on governance will include salary costs for mayor and council.
The $400,000 typical residential property was chosen, as a round number, to represent the 2019 average residential assessment in Area C of $402,388. This figure was readily available to the consultants from BC Assessment and CSRD tax reporting.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs publishes a range of municipal taxation data sheets each year. One sheet presents “Taxes and Charges on a Representative House” for each municipality. The data, unfortunately, are not presented for electoral areas. Representative house values for nearby and CSRD municipalities in 2019 were as follows:
- Salmon Arm - $398,835
- Chase - $276,558
- Sicamous - $326,954
- Revelstoke - $446,821
- Golden - $301,010
During the engagement phase of the study, public materials will show tax implications for a range of properties and property values.
In the event of incorporation, any costs that are incurred, over and above current cost levels, to provide local services to residents in Sorrento-Blind Bay would be paid solely by taxpayers within the new municipality.*
Electoral Area C residents who live outside of the Incorporation Study Area would not pay towards these costs.
On a related point, the vote to proceed with incorporation would only include residents within the Incorporation Study Area. Residents outside of the Study Area would not be given a vote.
As part of the study, the Committee is identifying service cost implications for residents of Electoral Area C who are outside of the Study Area. The cost of certain services for these residents may be lower without Sorrento-Blind Bay in the service area; alternatively, the cost of other services could be higher. Once all services have been assessed and total cost implications for Area C residents have been identified, the Committee (and community) will be able to gauge any net-cost impact on taxpayers outside of the Study Area. The province is ultimately responsible for ensuring that there are no significant adverse cost impacts on taxpayers outside of the Study Area.
* Note that the province would provide a certain amount of financial assistance to the new municipality to defer cost impacts associated with certain services (e.g., local roads).