Controversy brewing over Castlegar bid to take over Ootischenia gravel pit land
A group of concerned Ootischenia residents is holding a public meeting Monday to discuss the City of Castlegar’s interest in extending its boundaries to include a parcel of land currently owned by the Ministry of Transportation (MoT). (Click here to read the city’s public notice on the matter).
A press release issued this morning reads as follows, “A Town Hall meeting for Ootischenia Residents is scheduled for (Jan.27 at 7 p.m.) to discuss the The City of Castlegar’s intention to extend the city Boundary to include the Ootischenia Ministry of Highways Gravel Pit Land extending to the Columbia River.
“Most residents would rightfully assume that all is well with this intention; that elected officials and the people most affected have been consulted. The residents of Ootischenia have not been consulted. The Regional District of Central Kootenay directors responsible to their constituents have not been consulted.
“All Ootischenia residents are encouraged to attend. Area J director Gord Zaitsoff will be in attendance to answer questions. As an Ootischenia resident, you need to get informed about your property rights and how your rights will be affected.”
Castlegar city councillor Deb McIntosh said she’s not sure why the tone of the release indicates such upset.
“The RDCK is aware of it, and (city council) doesn’t hold consultations with non-residents. They should be speaking to their elected representatives (with the RDCK),” McIntosh said. She said the city wants to acquire the property for future development and taxation, because the community is currently land-poor.
“We don’t have any large, undeveloped tracts of land,” she said, adding there has been no discussion, at this time, about specific uses for the property.
“The discussion about buying it is so preliminary, there hasn’t even been an environmental assessment done,” she said. “There’s no certainty that we’ll even purchase it, at this point, much less develop it.”
She said rumours the city plans to use the spot for a sewage treatment plant are “absolute nonsense”.
“That’s not even on the table – but even if it was, we’d have to wait until we acquired the land, then we’d have to have a public consultation. No one’s trying to sneak anything by anyone, or hamper the quality of life of Ootischenia residents.”
Ootischenia resident Michelle Donaldson said her understanding is that the RDCK was not formally notified or given option to purchase the land and, in fact, is being given no say whatsoever in the process.
“Area J has no say – it’s between the MoT, the city and the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development,” she said. “We’ve been left out of the process. Your home is your biggest personal investment. Imagine if all of a sudden, the piece of property right beside you can be changed and you have no say.”
Donaldson said neighbouring residents see the parcel as a natural parkland and want to see it preserved for fishing, hiking trails and access to the Kinnaird Bridge. At the very least, she said, she’d like to see a committee to hash out the ultimate disposition of the land, with Ootischenia residents at the table.
“I think we’ve lost sight of our responsibilities to each other,” she said.
Mayor Lawrence Chernoff said it’s too early in the process for that kind of consultation.
“First we have to find out when the land will become available, if it will become available,” he said, adding there would be some form of public consultation should the boundary extension move forward. “We want to work with our neighbours to the best of our ability – we’re not trying to push anyone out or shut anyone out of the process.”
The meeting is slated to be held at the Ootischenia Hall at 1119 Columbia Rd.