The City of Prince Rupert is maintaining the process to expand Prince Rupert’s municipal boundaries is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
The first and second open house as part of the marathon process were held last week, with the city coming across questions about the B.C. Treaty process, tax increases and more.
At the first open house held on May 29, Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem, city planner Zeno Krekic and corporate administrator Robert Grodecki were in attendance, first giving a short presentation before answering people’s questions regarding the boundary expansion. The purpose of the open houses was to gather input from the public on the expansion.
“We are taking all the questions and comments [from the open houses] and putting it into a package for council to consider,” Krekic said.
One individual that spoke at last Wednesday’s open house was David Leask from Metlakatla, who said the expansion is worrisome for his community.
“There’s big concerns within our community that this is going to be restrictive to us, and limit our ability to expand and have access to areas that are suitable for economic development, recreation and practice our culture,” Leask said.
“It’s viewed as a threat to any potential expansion for Metlakatla,” Leask said later at the event.
With the BC Treaty Process is currently underway, some at the open house questioned what that could mean if the proposed expansion went through, and why the city doesn’t wait until that process is over.
Mussallem said it’s being done now instead of waiting until then to ensure sooner rather than later that the city has land-use planning for the area which would directly impact the community-at-large. Mussallem also said any issues arising with the boundary expansion and treaty process would be dealt with by the provincial and federal governments, and assured the expansion process wouldn’t hinder it in any way.
Mussallem assured people that the city has had and will continue to have discussions with First Nations communities potentially affected by the expansion.
Landowners expressed worries that their taxes would double, something Mussallem said wouldn’t happen because it would be unfair. Mussallem also ensured landowners would have their say in the zoning process. The city reiterated that the expansion wouldn’t change ownership of the land, but the governance of the land.
“If the property is going to be zoned, people will be able to participate in that as to what sort of zoning they would like to see,” Mussallem said.
Prince Rupert’s Larry Golden asked how the city would cover the costs of services such as water, sewer and garbage pick-up for landowners taken in by the expansion, and how Prince Rupert’s current tax base would cover that cost.
Mussallem said there is no master plan right now for that, it would be predicated on the developments as they came along.
Coun. Anna Ashley was in attendance along with several other councillors, and reminded people the city will take these concerns and attempt to resolves them before moving forward with the process.