A plan to create a Regional Heritage Service Function in the Peace River Regional District may have to be put on hold after Fort St. John voted against being part of the function, until residents give their consent.
On Monday, rather than giving its outright consent to the Regional District, City Council voted in favour of suggesting the Regional District hold a referendum, so that residents have a say in whether they would want to fund this type of service.
The Regional District had been proposing a regional heritage bylaw that would allow it to move forward in the process of having sites like the Alaska Highway and the Kiskatinaw Bridge obtain heritage status. It would create a committee to develop proposals for heritage sites, which would be funded by the jurisdictions within the Regional District.
The Regional District would collect taxes from the various municipalities, based on assessed property values, to fund the service. In the first year, for example, a residential property owner in Fort St. John with a 2011 assessed value of $350,000 would pay approximately $5.25.
In its proposal, the Regional District states that amount could fluctuate year over year based on how much funding is allocated to the service function and someone’s assessed value. Although the first year would be the most expensive to get the initiative started, the City pointed out that the current rates do not take into account the cost of any possible future projects.
The City says, in general, when residents have to pay for a new service, they are given the opportunity to vote on it, such as in a referendum.
However, City Manager Dianne Hunter says there is not enough time to add a question regarding the heritage service function on the municipal ballot for the November election and indicated that it should be up to the Regional District to hold its own referendum.
To move forward with the bylaw, the Regional District would require the support of all seven municipalities and four electoral areas across the Peace. Back in June, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Regional District, Fred Banham told Fort St. John City Council that if even one jurisdiction refused to participate, the Regional District would not be able to proceed with the proposed bylaw, which would have to be revised.