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Annexation splits council

Whether 10 properties along Silver Star and Pleasant Valley roads should leave the Regional District and join the City of Vernon was up for debate at Vernon City Council this week.

Council voted 4-2 Monday to support the annexation applications noting that six of the property owners are in favour of joining the City of Vernon while four want to remain in the BX-Swan Lake electoral area.

Two city councillors, and a vocally opposed, Electoral Director believe that the City is forcing people out who don't want to leave.

"To annex people into the city against their will, I can't put my hand up in favour," said Councillor Bob Spiers during the debate.

Area B Director for the Regional District of the North Okanagan, Bob Fleming, met with reporters shortly after council voted in favour of the annexation.

“In my point of view it is poor planning, bad financially for the electoral area, and fills in more green space which is kind of one of the appeals of having the electoral area, it preserves the green space,” said Fleming.

Under provincial laws an annexation only requires a majority of the property owners to endorse it, which in this case they have with 6 out of the 10 properties, which means the four opposing properties will be 'forced' into it says the Area B Director.

He says those four property owners will see no benefits from the move, claiming they will only see higher development fees and a tax increase.

“The people that are being dragged into this, have a number of issues. The one that was raised to me by the main property, that being Butcher Boys is that, in additional to the costs of the sewer, there are development costs which are higher than the regional district's fee.

There are also the taxes with the City of Vernon, which are higher than the Regional District, and so those things in combination may make it so they cannot redevelop their property and that is what they are concerned about,” claims Fleming.

He adds that the three residential properties will also loose out as they are un-subdividable, and will face a sewer access fee and higher taxes.

Fleming says the city has no need for these 10 properties and that the only benefactor is the owners asking for the annexation.

“The City has no need for more development in those areas, they have 50-years of residential lots already approved, zoned or currently in development for single family residential. They do not need more green-field residential land and they are proceeding anyway.

The do not need that land, but someone will benefit, the owner, who will now subdivide,” said Fleming.

The City will now ask the provincial government to initiate a 30-day petition to see if Vernon residents oppose these properties joining the city, something Fleming claims is part of the problem.

He says the only people who might want to vote on the annexation are those being annexed and as they are not currently citizens of Vernon, they can't vote.

“The counter petition process they referred to its actually only available to the citizens of the City of Vernon, of course the 10 property owners are not citizens of the City of Vernon, so they cannot even object through that process. They can't vote. The chance of getting 10 per cent of the electorate of the City of Vernon to care enough about what's happening to a ten property annexation are extremely slim.”

The property owners involved do still have the opportunity to send personal letters to the City of Vernon and the province, to sway the final decision.  

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